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Australian trust in China continues downward slide

Photo: Lowy Institute

Public trust in the People’s Republic of China continues to fall into historically low levels, according to data from a new report released by the Lowy Institute.

Public trust in the People’s Republic of China continues to fall into historically low levels, according to data from a new report released by the Lowy Institute.

Public sentiment towards China remains mired at historically low levels with only 17 per cent of Australians saying they trust China “somewhat” or “a great deal” to act responsibly in the world, according to the data collected annually under the Lowy Institute Poll by the Public Opinion and Foreign Policy program.

“This is steady from 2023 and a minor increase on 2022, when trust in China reached a record low (12 per cent). However, it still stands in sharp contrast to just six years ago, when half (52 per cent) of Australians trusted China,” the institute said.


“On a list of eight countries, only Russia (8 per cent) elicits less trust from Australians, a ranking it has held since its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“For the fourth year in a row, Australians ranked Japan as the most trusted foreign country on the list (87 per cent). France (81 per cent) and the United Kingdom (80 per cent) were the next most-trusted countries, remaining in the top three.

“In the lead-up to the 2024 US presidential election, levels of trust in the United States dropped a further five points from 2023 to 56 per cent, continuing a decline that now puts it at nine points below 2022 (65 per cent), in the second year of the Biden presidency. India (56 per cent) and Indonesia (52 per cent) remain largely steady in the middle of the group.”

Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Suzuki Kazuhiro, said the public trust in Japan is an impressive testament to the partnership.

“Japan has once again and for four years consecutively, ranked the highest in terms of trust (87 per cent) – an impressive testament that Japan–Australian partnership, based on shared values such as the rule of law, is stronger than ever at both government and people-to-people levels,” he said this week.

People’s Republic of China Minister of National Defense, Admiral Dong Jun was questioned about Chinese intentions in the Indo-Pacific during the recent Shangri-La Dialogue 2024 held in Singapore.

South Korean delegate Chung Min Lee, beating out more than 30 other questions to the admiral at the event, asked the Chinese minister if nations in the Indo-Pacific can trust China.

“You say that China does everything correct for security and defence in this region, but many in this region think that what you do is the exact opposite. You argue that China is against cyber attacks yet your companies, data has revealed, make consistent attacks against all Asian countries,” the South Korean delegate said.

“You argue that you are against nuclear proliferation, and you want a nuclear-free Asia, yet your country continues to support Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear state and you also work closely with Russia.

“Finally, you argue that you are for the freedom of navigation and yet you are threatening ASEAN states, including the Philippines every single day, and you claim the South China Sea. How can we trust you when your words and actions are totally opposite?”

Admiral Dong Jun responded that the South China Sea is one of the busiest areas of global shipping and that other international players were the ones bringing problems into the region.

“Some big power (USA) are increasing their military presence in this area, deploying more military assets. What is their purpose? They come here for peace or stirring up trouble?

“Without international regulation from any country they are trying to … violate other countries’ sovereignty with so-called freedom of navigation (exercises).

“They enter into territorial sea space of other countries … If you drive into other people’s houses and don’t allow others to make any response, is that freedom? I don’t believe this kind of behaviour is freedom.

“This country says, by itself, each year that they conduct freedom of navigation against dozen of countries. There are many victims in the South China Sea, we are all victims of these kinds of operations. If this is freedom of navigation then I don’t understand what rules mean anymore.”

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