What does the world think of the U.S. and China?

Via blackandwhitecat.org, one of fellow CN Reviews blogger Kai Pan favorite blogs, we got turned onto a recent BBC World Survey (pdf)on international public opinion on world countries. Warning: this is a Kai Pan’esque mega post written by Elliott.

The seeds of polarization are already clear in this survey

Blackandwhitecat came up with an unsurprising, but somewhat depressing, conclusion:

One of the interesting things about this poll is that each country seems to have quite a rosy view of its own influence on the world, even if the world doesn’t agree. The Chinese, however, have taken this tendency to extremes – a whopping 90% positive appraisal. Either the Chinese are extraordinarily perceptive, or they are somewhat lacking in introspection….

Throughout most of the poll, when one country has a negative view of another, the feeling is mutual. So China and Japan both gave each other bad marks. An exception to this is Germany, which gave the most negative of all the European assessments. China, on the other hand, was quite positive towards Germany. It probably isn’t anymore.

I don’t think people in the U.S. really know how positive Chinese people are about their role in the world. So these differences in opinion lay the seeds for misunderstanding.

What does the US invasion of Iraq and the Tibetan crackdown have in common? Both events have polarized the views of the citizens of the country against the views of the world.

Polarization has continued, most recently through the Tibet events and the subsequent Olympic protests

These posts, and the data from the BBC World Survey cry out for the need for people to seek to understand first and to see the world from each others eyes.

US people take note: the world still doesn’t like the US government. In fact they like China’s government more.

Views of China’s Influence by country


Views of U.S. influence by country


Which country has a more positive influence in the world, U.S. or China?

  • Overall: China. 47% for China vs. 35% for U.S. (excluding subject country)
  • Latin America: China. 45% for China vs 32% for U.S.
  • Europe: China. 39% for China vs 31% for U.S.
  • Middle East: China. 63% for China vs. 34% for U.S.
  • Africa: United States. 66% for China, 70% for U.S.
  • Asia (ex-China): China again. 40% for China vs 39% for U.S.

Advantage: China.

In fact, only 9 of 23 countries rated the U.S. higher than China: Portugal, Italy, Israel (just barely), Kenya, Ghana, Phillipines, South Korea, Indonesia, and Japan.

Caveat: Data was collected in December 2007 before the recent March Tibet events and the torch run. Things may have changed.

The only good news: things used to be worse for the US. The BBC looked at historical results and concluded that the “World views US ‘more positively’” than before.

So what should we do about this?

Listen first. Then understand. Then discuss. Then debate. Then convince. Only then will you gain the long-standing respect of your fellow world citizens.

UPDATE 4/19:  Lots of continuing examples of how extreme nationalism, amplified by the Web, is creating real cost to be a moderate.  Rick Martin at PandaPassport highlights Duke University Grace Wang’s actions to bridge the gap between pro-Tibet and  pro-China demonstrators, and also Jin Jing statements requesting moderation from Netizens, and the violent response from Netizens that turned a heroine into a traitor in less than a day as reported by Liang Fafu and translated by China Digital Times (h/t to PandaPassport):

Below is a news item:

2008-04-16 14:24:00 Source: Xinmin.cn. Netizen Comments: 480. Summary: Olympic torch bearer Jin Jing has publicly said she hopes netizens will be prudent in handling calls to boycott Carrefour as the first victims of such a boycott are likely to be the many Chinese who work for Carrefour.

Below is some of the commentary from netizens:

Netizen from Jinan, Shandong: “Jin Jing is bullshit! Speaking on behalf of Carrefour. I think she’s a traitor.”

Netizen from Beijing: “Torch bearer Jin Jing, I earnestly request you to shut your mouth. You’ve done your duty already. Don’t go around making irresponsible remarks. First she’s missing a leg, now she’s missing a brain.”

If an Olympic torchbearer, selected for her excellence in her sport to represent the Chinese people, and who happens to be handicapped, can be attacked with this degree of hatred from Chinese netizens, it means that anyone who shows moderation can face the wrath of extremist Netizens.

On the other site, I was disturbed by the TechCrunch article about Chinese Internet Users Say “Enough” to International Bullying to write a 450+ word rant in defense of what I thought were relatively level-headed commenters who were pro-(L) China against what I thought was shameful anti-(L) China commenters who appeared to be primarily American (or at least Western).  Frankly, my homeboys made me ashamed.  Now, I’m seeing a side of Chinese nationalism that frankly makes me concerned about where things are going.

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