China

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Since 2008, we have asked Australians a series of questions about China’s rise. China’s economic growth has had a strong impact on Australia, with China overtaking Japan to become Australia’s largest trading partner in late 2007. Yet despite its economic importance, Lowy Institute polling has shown that Australians hold a mixed, perhaps even contradictory, set of views on China.

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China

China’s rapid rise has prompted concerns about its growing military power and role in Asia. However, China’s economic growth has had a strong impact on Australia, with China overtaking Japan to become Australia’s largest trading partner in late 2007.

Lowy Institute polling in the past has found that the majority of Australians see China as by far the most important economy to Australia, with 76% saying China was ‘the most important economy to Australia’ in 2013, ahead of both the United States and Japan (16% named the United States as our most important economy in 2013, and 5% named Japan).

Asked whether China is ‘more of an economic partner’ to Australia or ‘more of a military threat’, a solid majority (77%) see China as ‘more of an economic partner’. Only 15% see it as ‘more of a military threat’.

Fears that China poses a military threat appear to have eased somewhat this year, with 39% of the population in 2015 believing it likely that ‘China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years’. In 2014, this was nine points higher at 48%.

In late 2013 and early 2014, tensions flared between China and Japan over their competing claims of sovereignty to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. In the 2015 Poll, we asked Australians their views on what Australia should do ‘in the event of a military conflict between China and Japan’. A very substantial 84% of Australians say ‘Australia should remain neutral’. A small minority (11%) say ‘Australia should support Japan’, while only 3% say ‘Australia should support China’.

In 2015, Australians’ feelings towards China sit at a warmish 58° on the Lowy Institute thermometer of feelings towards other countries, having warmed 6° between 2013 and 2014 to 60°, its equal highest score in our history of tracking. While a majority of Australians (61%) still believe in 2015 that ‘China’s aim is to dominate Asia’, a larger majority (67%) agree with the more benign view that ‘China’s aim is to create a better life for the Chinese people’. Nevertheless, 66% of Australians in 2015 say that ‘Australia should do more to resist China’s military aggression in our region, even if this affects our economic relationship’. In further evidence of this wariness of China’s increasing influence and assertiveness, a majority (56%) disagree that ‘having China as an important global power makes the world more stable’.

ATTITUDES TO CHINA

In the 2016 Poll, we presented a series of eight possible factors and asked Australians whether each was a positive or negative influence on their overall view of China.

The results suggest Australians see much to admire about China, but some aspects of Chinese society and policy elicit very negative responses, particularly among older generations of Australians. Chinese people, culture and history, and China’s economic growth are strongly positive influences on attitudes, with 85% of Australians saying ‘Chinese people [they] have met’ are a positive influence on their view of China, while 79% see ‘China’s culture and history’ as a positive influence and 75% see its economic growth as a positive influence on their view.

On the opposite side of the ledger, Australians react most strongly to ‘China’s human rights record’, with 86% of the Australian public saying it has a negative influence on their views.

‘China’s military activities in our region’ also provoke strong responses, with 79% saying these influence their views negatively. Other negative influences are ‘China’s system of government’ (73% saying it negatively influences their view), its ‘environmental policies’ (67%) and ‘Chinese investment in Australia’ (59%). Some of these factors weigh more heavily on older Australians, including China’s human rights record (93% of those 60 years and older saying a negative influence), China’s military activities (88% of those 45 years and older saying a negative influence), and Chinese investment (a negative influence for 65% of those 60 years and older).

In 2016, Australians’ feelings towards China sit at a warmish 58° on the Lowy Institute thermometer of feelings towards other countries, the same result as in 2015.

CHINA’S ECONOMY

While most Australians view China’s economic growth positively, public opinion is divided on whether this growth will continue at the rapid pace of the past three decades. China’s real gross domestic product has increased nearly 10% per annum on average since 1978, but the pace of growth has begun to slow.

Views in 2016 on the future of the Chinese economy are mixed, with 52% saying that ‘China’s economy will continue to grow strongly and this will benefit Australia’, and 44% saying that ‘China’s economy will slow down and the Australian economy will suffer’. Lowy Institute polling in the past has found that the majority of Australians see China as by far the most important economy to Australia, with 76% saying China was ‘the most important economy to Australia’ in 2013, well ahead of both the United States and Japan (16% named the United States as our most important economy in 2013, and 5% named Japan).

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Economic Partner or Military Threat

In your own view, is China more of an economic partner to Australia or more of a military threat to Australia?


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.

close

China

China’s rapid rise has prompted concerns about its growing military power and role in Asia. However, China’s economic growth has had a strong impact on Australia, with China overtaking Japan to become Australia’s largest trading partner in late 2007.

Lowy Institute polling in the past has found that the majority of Australians see China as by far the most important economy to Australia, with 76% saying China was ‘the most important economy to Australia’ in 2013, ahead of both the United States and Japan (16% named the United States as our most important economy in 2013, and 5% named Japan).

Asked whether China is ‘more of an economic partner’ to Australia or ‘more of a military threat’, a solid majority (77%) see China as ‘more of an economic partner’. Only 15% see it as ‘more of a military threat’.

Fears that China poses a military threat appear to have eased somewhat this year, with 39% of the population in 2015 believing it likely that ‘China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years’. In 2014, this was nine points higher at 48%.

In late 2013 and early 2014, tensions flared between China and Japan over their competing claims of sovereignty to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. In the 2015 Poll, we asked Australians their views on what Australia should do ‘in the event of a military conflict between China and Japan’. A very substantial 84% of Australians say ‘Australia should remain neutral’. A small minority (11%) say ‘Australia should support Japan’, while only 3% say ‘Australia should support China’.

In 2015, Australians’ feelings towards China sit at a warmish 58° on the Lowy Institute thermometer of feelings towards other countries, having warmed 6° between 2013 and 2014 to 60°, its equal highest score in our history of tracking. While a majority of Australians (61%) still believe in 2015 that ‘China’s aim is to dominate Asia’, a larger majority (67%) agree with the more benign view that ‘China’s aim is to create a better life for the Chinese people’. Nevertheless, 66% of Australians in 2015 say that ‘Australia should do more to resist China’s military aggression in our region, even if this affects our economic relationship’. In further evidence of this wariness of China’s increasing influence and assertiveness, a majority (56%) disagree that ‘having China as an important global power makes the world more stable’.

ATTITUDES TO CHINA

In the 2016 Poll, we presented a series of eight possible factors and asked Australians whether each was a positive or negative influence on their overall view of China.

The results suggest Australians see much to admire about China, but some aspects of Chinese society and policy elicit very negative responses, particularly among older generations of Australians. Chinese people, culture and history, and China’s economic growth are strongly positive influences on attitudes, with 85% of Australians saying ‘Chinese people [they] have met’ are a positive influence on their view of China, while 79% see ‘China’s culture and history’ as a positive influence and 75% see its economic growth as a positive influence on their view.

On the opposite side of the ledger, Australians react most strongly to ‘China’s human rights record’, with 86% of the Australian public saying it has a negative influence on their views.

‘China’s military activities in our region’ also provoke strong responses, with 79% saying these influence their views negatively. Other negative influences are ‘China’s system of government’ (73% saying it negatively influences their view), its ‘environmental policies’ (67%) and ‘Chinese investment in Australia’ (59%). Some of these factors weigh more heavily on older Australians, including China’s human rights record (93% of those 60 years and older saying a negative influence), China’s military activities (88% of those 45 years and older saying a negative influence), and Chinese investment (a negative influence for 65% of those 60 years and older).

In 2016, Australians’ feelings towards China sit at a warmish 58° on the Lowy Institute thermometer of feelings towards other countries, the same result as in 2015.

CHINA’S ECONOMY

While most Australians view China’s economic growth positively, public opinion is divided on whether this growth will continue at the rapid pace of the past three decades. China’s real gross domestic product has increased nearly 10% per annum on average since 1978, but the pace of growth has begun to slow.

Views in 2016 on the future of the Chinese economy are mixed, with 52% saying that ‘China’s economy will continue to grow strongly and this will benefit Australia’, and 44% saying that ‘China’s economy will slow down and the Australian economy will suffer’. Lowy Institute polling in the past has found that the majority of Australians see China as by far the most important economy to Australia, with 76% saying China was ‘the most important economy to Australia’ in 2013, well ahead of both the United States and Japan (16% named the United States as our most important economy in 2013, and 5% named Japan).

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2015: Conflict between China and Japan

In the event of a military conflict between China and Japan, please say which one of the following statements comes closest to your own personal view: Australia should support Japan, Australia should remain neutral, or Australia should support China.


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.

close

China

China’s rapid rise has prompted concerns about its growing military power and role in Asia. However, China’s economic growth has had a strong impact on Australia, with China overtaking Japan to become Australia’s largest trading partner in late 2007.

Lowy Institute polling in the past has found that the majority of Australians see China as by far the most important economy to Australia, with 76% saying China was ‘the most important economy to Australia’ in 2013, ahead of both the United States and Japan (16% named the United States as our most important economy in 2013, and 5% named Japan).

Asked whether China is ‘more of an economic partner’ to Australia or ‘more of a military threat’, a solid majority (77%) see China as ‘more of an economic partner’. Only 15% see it as ‘more of a military threat’.

Fears that China poses a military threat appear to have eased somewhat this year, with 39% of the population in 2015 believing it likely that ‘China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years’. In 2014, this was nine points higher at 48%.

In late 2013 and early 2014, tensions flared between China and Japan over their competing claims of sovereignty to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. In the 2015 Poll, we asked Australians their views on what Australia should do ‘in the event of a military conflict between China and Japan’. A very substantial 84% of Australians say ‘Australia should remain neutral’. A small minority (11%) say ‘Australia should support Japan’, while only 3% say ‘Australia should support China’.

In 2015, Australians’ feelings towards China sit at a warmish 58° on the Lowy Institute thermometer of feelings towards other countries, having warmed 6° between 2013 and 2014 to 60°, its equal highest score in our history of tracking. While a majority of Australians (61%) still believe in 2015 that ‘China’s aim is to dominate Asia’, a larger majority (67%) agree with the more benign view that ‘China’s aim is to create a better life for the Chinese people’. Nevertheless, 66% of Australians in 2015 say that ‘Australia should do more to resist China’s military aggression in our region, even if this affects our economic relationship’. In further evidence of this wariness of China’s increasing influence and assertiveness, a majority (56%) disagree that ‘having China as an important global power makes the world more stable’.

ATTITUDES TO CHINA

In the 2016 Poll, we presented a series of eight possible factors and asked Australians whether each was a positive or negative influence on their overall view of China.

The results suggest Australians see much to admire about China, but some aspects of Chinese society and policy elicit very negative responses, particularly among older generations of Australians. Chinese people, culture and history, and China’s economic growth are strongly positive influences on attitudes, with 85% of Australians saying ‘Chinese people [they] have met’ are a positive influence on their view of China, while 79% see ‘China’s culture and history’ as a positive influence and 75% see its economic growth as a positive influence on their view.

On the opposite side of the ledger, Australians react most strongly to ‘China’s human rights record’, with 86% of the Australian public saying it has a negative influence on their views.

‘China’s military activities in our region’ also provoke strong responses, with 79% saying these influence their views negatively. Other negative influences are ‘China’s system of government’ (73% saying it negatively influences their view), its ‘environmental policies’ (67%) and ‘Chinese investment in Australia’ (59%). Some of these factors weigh more heavily on older Australians, including China’s human rights record (93% of those 60 years and older saying a negative influence), China’s military activities (88% of those 45 years and older saying a negative influence), and Chinese investment (a negative influence for 65% of those 60 years and older).

In 2016, Australians’ feelings towards China sit at a warmish 58° on the Lowy Institute thermometer of feelings towards other countries, the same result as in 2015.

CHINA’S ECONOMY

While most Australians view China’s economic growth positively, public opinion is divided on whether this growth will continue at the rapid pace of the past three decades. China’s real gross domestic product has increased nearly 10% per annum on average since 1978, but the pace of growth has begun to slow.

Views in 2016 on the future of the Chinese economy are mixed, with 52% saying that ‘China’s economy will continue to grow strongly and this will benefit Australia’, and 44% saying that ‘China’s economy will slow down and the Australian economy will suffer’. Lowy Institute polling in the past has found that the majority of Australians see China as by far the most important economy to Australia, with 76% saying China was ‘the most important economy to Australia’ in 2013, well ahead of both the United States and Japan (16% named the United States as our most important economy in 2013, and 5% named Japan).

close

China as a Military Threat

Do you think it is likely or unlikely that China will become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years?


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.