China’s President Xi Jinping (right) and Kiribati’s President Taneti Maamau walk at a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, January 6, 2020. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Here in the United States, the discussion of coronavirus no longer focuses much on the origin of the virus, focusing instead on the outbreak in the White House, the president’s infection and ongoing recovery, the rate of cases, and the approval process for a vaccine.

But that doesn’t mean that the Chinese government escaped the worldwide pandemic with minimal damage to its reputation abroad.

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center unveiled the results of a new survey of public attitudes in fourteen countries, including the U.S. and most of the major European countries, finding that the pandemic has seriously worsened public perceptions of China.“Today, a majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China. And in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views have reached their highest points since the Center began polling on this topic more than a decade ago.”

Unsurprisingly, most citizens in free societies do not trust Chinese president Xi Jinping. The world isn’t as easy to impress as, say, a room full of Disney executives.

“Disapproval of how China has handled the COVID-19 pandemic also colors people’s confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping. A median of 78 percent say they have not too much or no confidence in him to do the right thing regarding world affairs, including at least seven-in-ten in every country surveyed.”

It is fair to wonder whether negative public attitudes toward the Chinese government necessarily translate into tougher diplomatic stances from free societies.

One of the relative exceptions was Italy, where 51 percent say China did a good job handling the coronavirus and 49 percent say the country did a bad job.

However, the strongly negative perception of the Chinese government response does not mean that foreign countries are impressed with the U.S. government response. In fact, more people believe America has done poor job:

Across the 14 nations surveyed, a median of 61% say China has done a bad job dealing with the outbreak. This is many more than say the same of the way the COVID-19 pandemic was handled by their own country or by international organizations like the World Health Organization or the European Union. Only the U.S. receives more negative evaluations from the surveyed publics, with a median of 84 percent saying the U.S. has handled the coronavirus outbreak poorly.

In July, Pew Research found that 54 percent of Democrats believe that China had done a bad job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, while 82 percent of Republicans believed China had done a bad job. Seventy-four percent of Democrats agreed that “China’s early handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan contributed a great deal to its global spread,” while 90 percent of Republicans agreed.

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