China's reputation takes a well-deserved global hit

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If there is a silver lining to the pandemic that has killed more than a million people and crashed the global economy, it’s that people around the world are finally waking up to China’s evil.

A new Pew Research Center poll found that thanks to its dishonest and reckless handling of the coronavirus, opinions toward China have taken a hit around the world this year. Conducted via phone between June 10 and Aug. 13, the poll surveyed more than 14,000 adults in 14 countries and found double-digit increases in the number of people viewing China unfavorably. According to Pew, 81% of Australians, 74% of Britons, 73% of Americans, and 71% of Germans now view China poorly.

This news is not going down well in Beijing, which is responding with typical arrogance to the results. The Chinese Communist Party’s primary Western-focused propagandist declared, “We don’t want bad relations with Western countries, nor will we exchange our national interests for their goodwill. Their goodwill is not so valuable.”

Though the coronavirus obviously was a major factor in China’s growing unpopularity, it would be a mistake to blame this poll solely on the virus. It’s true that Beijing mishandled it and even concealed the early outbreak in the city of Wuhan. We are confident that as more comes to light on what Beijing knew about the virus and when it knew it, China’s reputation will take an even heavier hit. But China’s deteriorating reputation reflects its much broader disdain for the international community and its norms.

Evidence for this disdain is varied and overwhelming. Beijing demands, for example, that foreign businesses sacrifice their secrets in exchange for access to its 1.4 billion-person market; steals more than $100 billion a year of intellectual property; introduces tariffs on foreign goods simply to retaliate against nations that have drawn attention to its shabby human rights record; stole most of the South China Sea and works to sever India from its northern territory; bullies poorer nations, many in Africa, by offering investment only in return for political deference and cronyism. Oh, also, Beijing exploited the early shortages during the pandemic to sell billions of dollars worth of flawed personal protective equipment.

Seeping through all of this activity is the Chinese Communist Party’s arrogance. It believes or behaves as though it believes that it can do no wrong. Where politicians or peoples complain about being treated unfairly, Beijing accuses them of deception or injustice. Foreign ministries the world over have become accustomed to Beijing’s “wolf warrior” diplomats taking to Twitter to launch fake news attacks against them. This rudeness is the rule when it comes to China’s contact with the world. Even the normally stoic diplomacy of Queen Elizabeth II has been tested here. Following a 2015 state visit by Xi Jinping to Britain, the queen was heard telling a police officer that the Chinese delegation was “very rude” and that it was “bad luck” she had been responsible for their security during the trip.

The simple truth is that the more the world sees of Communist China, the more it comes to dislike. For all its promises of investment and mutual benefit, people are realizing that China’s truest offer is one only of arrogant hegemony. Unless and until Xi’s regime starts showing the rest of the world the respect it deserves, China’s reputation will decline yet further.

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