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2008 Lowy Poll: Australians wary over China's rise

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30 September 2008 11:10

The 2008 Lowy Institute Poll, which was released yesterday (some highlights here) contained a number of new questions that offer a more nuanced view of Australian attitudes towards China. On the positive side, a majority of Australians (52%) said relations with China are improving and as you can see from the chart below, 62% agreed that China's growth has been good for Australia — a positive sign considering China is now Australia's largest trading partner. But there is some concern evident in the broader implications of China's rise: 64% disagreed that Australia's interest would not be harmed if China gained more power and influence and Australians were more or less divided when it comes to containing China.

Showing some of the concern over China's rise  86% of Australians polled said they thought China would become the leading power in Asia and of this 86%, 59% said they were either somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable about this. To put that in a bit more context, there is some interesting comparative data from Japan, South Korea and the United States where the Chicago Council asked a similar question this year. It found strong majorities in  the United states (71%), Japan (89%) and South Korea (77%) saying they were somewhat or very uncomfortable with the idea of China one day becoming the leader in Asia.

The Lowy Poll also found trust in China was down this year from 60% trusting it somewhat or a great deal in 2006 to 47% this year. It would seem that recent events (the controversy over the Olympic torch relay, the crackdown in Tibet and the Olympic Games) have resulted in more cautionary attitudes towards China. But looking at the results of opinion polls from around the world, Australians still appear, by comparison, very positive about China.

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