Australians Trust China Less Even as Their Dependence Grows
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Australians are growing more mistrustful of China and are wary of the nation’s economic dependence on its biggest trading partner, according to a survey.
The number of Australians who say they trust China to act responsibly has fallen to 32% this year from 52% in 2018, according to the annual survey conducted by Sydney-based think tank the Lowy Institute. Still, this hasn’t resulted in more support for the U.S., with two-thirds of those surveyed saying the alliance has weakened under President Donald Trump.
The survey shows the increasingly difficult terrain Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs to traverse as he attempts to improve relations with China while supporting the bid by the U.S. to bolster its influence in the Asia-Pacific. After securing a surprise victory for his conservative government in last month’s election, the Australian leader will outline his foreign policy agenda in a speech in Sydney on Wednesday before meeting world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka this weekend.
The Lowy survey reveals Australians are becoming increasingly hawkish regarding China.
74% say Australia is too economically dependent on China68% say the Australian government is allowing too much investment from China77% (up 11 points since 2015) say Australia should do more to resist China’s military activities in the region, even if this affects our economic relationship
Morrison is seeking to improve ties with China after they were damaged last year when Australia passed laws aimed at negating Beijing’s influence in national affairs and barred Huawei Technologies Co. from building its 5G network.
Signs of China’s disgruntlement have since emerged, including criticism in Beijing-backed newspapers and a slowdown on Australian coal imports into Chinese ports. As the most China-dependent developed nation, Australia has a lot to lose if the relationship deteriorates further or should it become entwined in the burgeoning U.S.-China trade war.
Despite Australia’s long-term alliance with the U.S., forged in World War II, the nation is looking closer to home for support, with 59% saying New Zealand is its best friend in the world, followed by the U.S. (20%) and the U.K. (15%).
Beyond geopolitics, the survey shows:
64% say climate change is the leading critical threat to Australia’s vital interests over the next 10 years, more than cyber-attacks (62%), international terrorism (61%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (60%)65% are optimistic about Australia’s economic performance in the world over the next five years; that’s 9 points lower than in 2017
The survey was conducted in March among 2,130 Australians and has a margin of error of 2.1%.
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