Guardian of international orderYOU SANG-CHUL
The author is the director of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The power contest between the United States and China is in full swing. The United States is uniting allies while China emphasizes its 108 partners. What is noteworthy is that China is not necessarily defensive. It is offensive at the same time. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address marking the centennial of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1 is a typical example.
He warned that “Foreign powers harassing China will have their heads cracked and bleeding,” and China will “be builders of world peace, advocates for global development and guardians of the international order.”
The speech revealed China’s ambition to replace the United States and lead the world. The spirit is admirable, but how was it received? We need to look at a result Pew Research Center survey released on June 30.
In a survey of 18,850 people in 17 developed countries, unfavorable feelings toward China were at the highest point ever. Nearly 70 percent of respondents were negative about China, and the country that showed the most antagonism was Japan, with 88 percent saying they dislike China, followed by Sweden (80 percent), Australia (78 percent), Korea (77 percent) and the United States (76 percent). In 2015, 37 percent of Korean respondents said they disliked China, but in six years, it has more than doubled.
The negative perception of Xi was even stronger. In 14 out of 17 countries, Xi had a worse reputation than China. Japan and Sweden tied with 86 percent, followed by Korea with 84 percent. China’s Thaad retaliation, which began in 2016, and its claim to be the origin of both kimchi and hanbok, contributed to the growing negative perception.
When asked who to economically cooperate with between the United States and China, 75 percent of Korean respondents chose the United States. Only 17 percent chose China. In the same survey in 2015, 47 percent preferred China, more than the 39 percent opting for the United States. In a survey on opinons of neighboring countries last month, young Koreans in their 20s and 30s said they dislike China more than Japan.
You need to win the hearts of the people to become the leader of a state. To be the leader of the world, support from each country is essential. Xi wants China to become the “guardian of international order.” But the surveys show otherwise.
China says, “Our friends are getting stronger and growing in number.” Is that really the case? Rather than gaining friends, I am worried that China is becoming isolated.