'Security threat': Australia's 'negative shift' on China revealed

·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read

Australians have shifted strongly in their view of China as relations between the two nations have plumbed new depths. 

More than 60 per cent of Australians now see Beijing as an increasing security threat, according to an annual poll conducted by the Lowy Institute which quizzes Australians on their attitudes on a range of international issues.

"Trust, warmth and confidence in China and China’s leaders started to decline in 2017, and this year’s results present another record low for Australians’ views of China," the group said. 

Chinese security guards look at military delegates during the speech of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Source: Getty
More than 60 per cent of Australians now see Beijing as an increasing security threat. Source: Getty

"In 2021, even views of China’s economic growth — historically a positive for Australians — have now shifted into negative territory."

As the Asian superpower, which has become the world's largest economy by some measures, asserts itself in global affairs, fewer than one in five Australians trust China to act responsibly in the world.

Meanwhile almost all Australians – 93 per cent – see China’s military activities in our region as having a negative influence on their view of China. That is a 14-point increase from 2016.

The poll of more than 2200 Australians found 16 per cent of respondents trusted China "a great deal" or "somewhat" in its international conduct - almost 40 percentage points lower than in 2018.

Some 63 per cent of respondents said they now see China as "more of a security threat" to Australia than an economic partner, while more than half said Australia-China relations pose a critical national security threat.

Chinese investment in Australia (79 per cent), Chinese environmental policies (79 per cent), China's autocratic governance model (92 per cent) were also viewed unfavourably. 

Almost half of respondents said Australia should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to China's human rights record in places like Xinjiang.

A graph showing China is now seen in Australia as more a military threat than a trading partner.
China is now seen in Australia as more a military threat than a trading partner. Source: Lowy Institute
A graph showing Australians' concern is aimed squarely at the Chinese Communisty Party, not the population.
Australians' concern is aimed squarely at the Chinese Communisty Party, not the population. Source: Lowy Institute

'Remarkable moment' in Australian history

Lowy Institute executive director Michael Fullilove said the poll – which also touched on the pandemic, climate change and other major issues – captured a "remarkable moment" in Australian history.

Elsewhere, almost seven in 10 respondents expressed confidence in US President Joe Biden to do the right thing in world affairs – almost 40 percentage points higher than the confidence held in Donald Trump in 2020.

And while three quarters believed the US would support Australia in a military confrontation, most believed Mr Trump had weakened the ANZUS alliance.

Not to be outdone, China's nationalist Global Times tabloid – an increasingly jingoistic outlet owned by the Chinese Communist Party – published results of its own poll Wednesday.

The survey was conducted by the Global Times Research Center in cooperation with the Australian Studies Center of Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) from June 11-15 via an online questionnaire, according to the outlet.

The survey showed almost half of respondents – 49.6 per cent – believe that Australia is "too dependent" on China in terms of its economy.

with AAP

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