With all the Tibet furore, I missed the release of the BBC World Service poll (PDF) measuring views on the positive and negative influence of various countries around the world. The BBC leads with the United States. Not surprisingly, I’m more interested in China. But Americans might be disturbed to know that the world thinks China has a more positive influence than their country. Or at least it did before Tibetans started killing Han and Hui, and Nepali police started beating Tibetans. (No wonder Stephen Hadley’s confused, though the Huffington Post shouldn’t get too cocky about Hadley’s mistake - it’s been prominently featuring mislabeled pictures of Nepali police violence.)
Here are the results for just two of the countries involved - China and the US:
One of the interesting things about this poll is that each country seems to have quite a rosy view of its own influence on the world, even if the world doesn’t agree. The Chinese, however, have taken this tendency to extremes - a whopping 90% positive appraisal. Either the Chinese are extraordinarily perceptive, or they are somewhat lacking in introspection.
Another interesting thing is the big divide between the developed and the developing world in assessing China’s influence. Europeans and North Americans have a much more negative view of China than Africans, Latin Americans and Asians. Europeans and North Americans might want to bear this in mind when they talk about the “international community.” What they really mean is the North American and European community - in other words, NATO and its allies. Not the same thing.
Throughout most of the poll, when one country has a negative view of another, the feeling is mutual. So China and Japan both gave each other bad marks. An exception to this is Germany, which gave the most negative of all the European assessments. China, on the other hand, was quite positive towards Germany. It probably isn’t anymore.
What would this poll look like if it were to be repeated now that the Chinese government and media are doing their best to destroy any positive feelings the West might have had towards them - and vice versa? I would guess that those who tended to be negative will now be much more so, but those who tended to be positive probably still are. How would China’s appraisal of the West have changed? Probably for the worse. If my guess is correct, I hope it doesn’t become a trend.
More than ever before I’m looking forward to the end of the Olympics - and the end of the rather pointless US election (how can so many people get so excited about something that really doesn’t make any difference at all?) When these two massive money wasters are over, maybe the hyperbolic propaganda on all sides might start to calm down a little. Then could we all start talking to each other instead of shouting?