- Nov 4, 2011
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A rising China seen as having positive impact by developing countries, but not by the West and India: Survey
Across the countries covered in the study, 45 per cent of respondents thought that China’s rise would have a positive impact on their country, as opposed to 25 per cent who thought it negative. PHOTO: AFP
September 15 2023
China’s rise is welcomed by much of the developing world, even as many developed countries view it with concern, a global survey has found.
The wide-ranging Open Society Barometer 2023 survey also found that young people aged 18 to 35 had less faith in democracy than those who are older, in what the study calls its “most disturbing finding”.
Across all 30 countries covered in the study, 45 per cent of respondents thought that China’s rise would have a positive impact on their country, compared with 25 per cent who thought it negative.
The study was conducted by Open Society Foundations, a grant-making network founded by billionaire George Soros that supports civil society groups around the world.
Some of China’s biggest supporters were Pakistan – where 76 per cent of respondents said China’s growing power would have a positive impact – Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
In contrast, the countries most pessimistic about China’s rise were Japan – where 72 per cent said it would have a negative impact – followed by Britain, the United States, Germany, India, France, Italy and Poland.
In the US, 48 per cent viewed China’s rise negatively, compared with 25 per cent who had a positive opinion; in India, the ratio was 46 per cent negative versus 32 per cent positive.
The survey also asked respondents which country would be the most influential by 2030. The options offered were Brazil, China, France, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Britain and the US, as well as “do not know”.
China was the top pick at 32 per cent, followed by the US at 26 per cent. Notably, the highest figures for China were in Africa, Asia and Latin America, while the US saw strong support in Eastern European states like Ukraine and Poland.
The survey described itself as “one of the largest studies of global public opinion on human rights and democracy ever conducted”.
Interviews with over 36,000 people in 30 countries were conducted between May and July 2023 on topics such as democracy and human rights, as well as power and politics. Singapore was not among those surveyed, while Malaysia was the only South-east Asian representative.
A surprising finding was that younger respondents did not believe in democracy as much as their older counterparts.
Among those aged 56 and above, 26 per cent were supportive of a strong leader who does away with assemblies and elections. This was 32 per cent among those aged 36 to 55, and 35 per cent among those aged 18 to 35.
On whether democracy is preferable to other forms of government, 71 per cent of those aged 56 and above agreed with this, but only 57 per cent of those below 36 years old came to the same conclusion.
“Today’s young people have grown up and been politicised as the age of polycrisis has emerged, during which forms of climate, economic, technological and geopolitical turmoil have grown and reinforced each other to a degree never seen before. So, although most people globally still have faith in democracy, that faith is running on fumes,” wrote Mr Mark Malloch-Brown, president of the Open Society Foundations, in a foreword to the study.
“And these findings suggest that it may be set to weaken with each generation,” he added.
Overall, however, he noted that “reports of democracy’s demise are greatly exaggerated”.
The survey found that democracy remains the most popular form of government globally, with 86 per cent of respondents wanting to live in a democratic state and nearly two-thirds preferring it over any other system. Only a fifth of respondents believed that authoritarian countries can better deliver “what citizens want”. And nearly two-thirds wanted their countries to build relationships with democratic countries rather than authoritarian ones.
Despite the faith in democracy on paper, the survey found that respondents in countries deemed more open do not necessarily report better performance in practice. Over half of the people in all countries polled felt their country was headed in the wrong direction.
“Our findings are both sobering and alarming. People around the world still want to believe in democracy. But generation by generation, that faith is fading as doubts grow about its ability to deliver concrete improvements to their lives. That has to change,” wrote Mr Malloch-Brown.
The survey also explored people’s priorities as well as the push for inclusion globally.
Across the world, the largest share of respondents – over a fifth – said “poverty and inequality” had the most impact on them personally. This was the case in the smallest economy surveyed, Senegal, where 26 per cent rated poverty and inequality as the largest problem facing them, and in the US, the world’s largest economy, where 19 per cent felt the same way.
One in five ranked climate change as the biggest challenge facing the world, putting it on a par with poverty and inequality amid a cost-of-living crisis and an uptick in political instability and conflict.
Food insecurity and hunger appeared to affect people in both rich and poor countries. Across the 30 countries surveyed, nearly half of the respondents said they had struggled to feed themselves or their families within the last year. And in Bangladesh, as in the US, 52 per cent of people agreed with this statement.
The other major challenges identified were corruption, political instability and conflict, and migration.
On the push for inclusion, the survey asked respondents for their views on which countries in their region, other than their own, should join China, France, Russia, Britain and the US as permanent members in the United Nations Security Council. The top choices were Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Africa, Brazil and Germany, with respondents gravitating towards established regional powers.
The survey also found that people were generous money-wise, but reluctant to cede power.
Most respondents in the developed world were in favour of richer countries providing material aid to lower-income nations, but lukewarm towards developing states having a greater say in global decision-making.
So even though nearly two-thirds of respondents globally believed low-income countries should have a greater say in decisions about international finance – with high support in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Senegal, Colombia and Egypt, among others – support was far lower in Germany, Russia and Japan.
The poll was conducted in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Britain and the US by pollster Savanta and Gradus Research in Ukraine.
The survey's “most disturbing finding” finding was that young people had less faith in democracy than older people. Read more at straitstimes.com.