Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Australia’s trust in China has fallen to a record low

Australians’ trust in China has plunged to another record low and a clear majority want the federal government to step up its climate commitments ahead of a major summit later this year, new research has revealed.

The 2021 Lowy Institute Poll, released on Wednesday, found only 16 per cent of respondents trusted China “a great deal” or “somewhat” to act responsibly in the world – a third of the number from 2018.

Just one in 10 had confidence in China’s President Xi Jinping to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”.

The poll canvassed the views of 2,222 Australians between 15 and 29 March 2021.

People outside Flinders Street station in Melbourne
More than 2,000 Australians shared their views on China.

Australia’s relationship with China has been strained in recent years, by, among other things, trade spats, Australia tearing up Victoria’s Belt and Road agreements with Beijing, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison pressing for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

Lowy director of public opinion and foreign policy Natasha Kassam said the way Australians see China is getting closer and closer to the way they perceive North Korea.

“Ten per cent of Australians say they have confidence in Xi Jinping to do the right thing in world affairs and five per cent of Australians say the same thing about Kim Jong-un. There are still five points between them but they’re not that different,” she told SBS News.

“I would have said last year that those levels of trust in China, which were already at record lows, and the level of confidence in Xi Jinping, had already hit their floor, but clearly that isn’t the case. We’ve seen them fall even lower.”

The think tank’s annual poll also found the vast majority (95 per cent) of respondents felt Australia has handled the COVID-19 pandemic very or fairly well, and nearly all (97 per cent) believed that will have a positive influence on its reputation across the world.

But more than half (54 per cent) felt Australia’s climate change policies are having a negative influence on its reputation overseas. 

Scott Morrison at the Leader's Summit on Climate.
Scott Morrison at the Leader’s Summit on Climate.

Six in 10 said global warming is a pressing problem that needs decisive action even if it involves “significant costs” – a four-point increase from 2020 – and three quarters agreed the benefits of taking further action will outweigh the costs.

Seventy per cent agreed Australia should “join other countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, to increase commitments to address climate change”.

Large majorities also supported subsidising renewable energy technology (91 per cent), setting a net-zero emissions target for 2050 (78 per cent), and introducing an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax (64 per cent).

“Concern [about climate] has been going up since 2013, about the time when Australia repealed the price on carbon. There was a little dip in 2020 when concern about COVID-19 overtook concerns about the climate, but what we can see now is that now we’ve returned to an upwards trajectory,” Ms Kassam said.

Australia’s climate change credentials have come under international criticism in recent times, especially for the government’s reluctance to set a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The government is committed to reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The United States and other allies hiked their targets at a recent global climate summit, though Mr Morrison told the meeting future generations will “thank us not for what we have promised, but what we deliver”.

The Lowy survey also found far more respondents had confidence in US President Joe Biden (69 per cent) than they did in Donald Trump last year (30 per cent) to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”.

Almost all (92 per cent) trusted Australia to act responsibly in the world and 59 per cent thought the government has done “about the right amount” to bring stranded Australians home.

Six in 10 felt cyberattacks from other countries and climate change would pose critical threats to Australia’s vital interests in the next decade.

Source: sbs