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On Australian public opinion, Xi gets it wrong

On Australian public opinion, Xi gets it wrong

With the G20 leaders' summit in full swing earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been meeting with leaders from the UK, India, France and China.

Turnbull had much to discuss with Xi Jinping in particular, as The Australian's David Crowe reported:

An assertive China has fired a warning shot at Malcolm Turnbull over foreign investment while hitting back at Western criticism of its military build-up in the South China Sea, sharpening tensions at a G20 summit riven by differences over security and the economy...

Officials said Mr Turnbull raised human rights issues, including China’s support for the death penalty, with Mr Xi responding by saying differences of opinion were normal and natural between friends. The Chinese President was also acutely aware of public opinion, reminding Mr Turnbull of a Lowy Institute poll showing that 80 per cent of Australians had a positive view of China.

On the last point, however, the acuity of  Xi's awareness (or, probably more accurately, that of his advisers) is up for debate, as this year's Lowy Institute Poll does not show that 80% of Australians had a positive view of China. In fact, the Poll does not even ask such a question. [fold]

The Poll does ask Australians to rate their attitude towards particular nations on a 'feelings thermometer', with zero meaning a very cold, unfavourable feeling and 100 meaning a very warm, favourable feeling. On this measure, China comes in at 58° (in comparison, Japan is at 70°, the US at 68°, and Russia at 52°). In over a decade of polling, China's ranking has a low of 53° and a high of 61°.

The Poll also asks Australians whether several factors had a positive or negative influence on their view of of China. This year 79% of Australians did say that China's culture and history had a positive influence on their view; however, significant majorities  also said China's environmental policies (67%), system of government (73%), military activities in the region (79%) and human rights record (86%) had negative effects.

You can explore the Poll's findings on China below.

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