Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What the Chinese Think

The Lowy Institute China Poll 2009 was released today, its first public opinion poll conducted in the Middle Kingdom.

I have yet to read the entire report, but here are some highlights brought up by one of the authors, Fergus Hanson:

  • With the Copenhagen Summit fast approaching and mixed response over China's aim to decrease emissions by 40-45 percent by 2025, of the nine possible threats to China's security, environmental issues like climate change and water and food shortages topped the list over other issues like the US trying to restrain China's growing influence or the possibility of Japan acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • Fifty percent of Chinese say the US poses a threat to China's security, making it the most threatening of five countries. Forty-five percent said Japan posed a threat, but only one-third (about 34 percent) saw India as a threat; only 21 percent said Russia.
  • Even though half of Chinese adults surveyed said the US posed a threat to China, it was seen as the best of five countries in which to be educated, making the US ahead of the UK, Singapore, Canada and Australia.
  • Last week The Economist wrote that China's "leaders seem more petrified than ever of what might happen if its people were given unfettered access to the thoughts of an American president." It seems the Chinese are quite attracted to Western models of government and values. Sixty-eight percent agreed Australia had attractive values and 57 percent that it had a good political system.
  • When it comes to China-Australia relations, despite Australia inviting Uygur dissident Rebiya Kadeer to the Melbourne Film Festival a few months ago, the Chinese public, for the most part were very positive towards Australia (althought 48 percent agreed Australia was a country suspicious of China).
  • On some issues, younger and better educated Chinese appear to be more nationalistic and fearful than their elders. For example, younger Chinese (18-24 years old) were twice as likely as their elders (55 years old and older) to say the US posed the greatest or second-greatest threat to China's security in the next 10 years -- 60 percent compared with 30 percent. Respondents with a university or college education were more likely to say India and Japan posed a threat than those whose highest level of education was junior secondary school: 43 percent compared with 25 percent for India, and 49 percent compared with 36 percent for Japan.
The last finding is troubling and somewhat ironic. While many young people may not admit it, they do admire the west and wish to go abroad if they had the means. They are the ones on the Internet and learning more about the world online. What this perhaps suggests is that the government has been successful in its education of its younger generations in terms of instilling nationalism; but by the same token it has resulted in unfounded fears that could have dire consequences.

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