Europe turning away from US towards China, polls show

By Michael Lord 21 May 2020

Recent polls indicate that Western Europeans are losing respect for the United States, while China is increasingly viewed as the world leader amidst the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In Germany, 76% of respondents said that their opinion of the US has declined during the crisis, while only 36% said the same about China, according to a report by Business Insider.
The two countries ranked roughly equally in terms of international relations, with 37% of Germans saying they favor close relations with the US, compared to 36% who said the same of China. By contrast, last year 50% of Germans favored close relations with the US and only 24% with China.

Only 10% of Germans said that America is the country’s most important ally, a decrease of 9%. 6% said the same about China, a decrease of 1%.

As for the United Kingdom, 35% responded that the UK should be building a stronger relationship with Europe, as opposed to only 13% who said the same of the US — a 6% shift in favour of Europe from last year.

And in France, only 2% of those surveyed said that they feel their country can rely on President Donald Trump to provide world leadership.

The shift is likely due to the perception that President Trump has mishandled the crisis, such as when he suggested last month that injecting disinfectant might be an effective virus treatment. Some of the US’ behavior towards Europe during the crisis — such as when word leaked out that America was seeking to buy exclusive rights to a German vaccine, or reports that American agents had intercepted shipments of critical medical supplies destined for France from China, as previously reported by Voice of Europe — has no doubt also contributed to the decline in respect for the country.

But even before the pandemic, decisions made by European political leaders showed that they are becoming increasingly oriented toward China. In January British Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to bow to American threats and proceeded with plans to work with Chinese companies to construct his country’s 5G network, for example. This suggests that China may be poised to exploit any power vacuum that is created if Europeans cease to look to the US as their closest partner.

Nevertheless, China has not escaped unscathed from this crisis, either. There has been widespread anger over reports that China’s disinformation campaign early in the pandemic hindered Europe’s potential response to it. Last month Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, drew up a bill for damages it claimed had been inflicted upon the country as a result of China’s deceptions, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.