Australians view China as more a security threat than economic partner, Lowy Institute poll shows
- Perceptions by Australians have not changed since 2021, with two-thirds of people surveyed in a Lowy Institute poll seeing China as a ‘security threat’
- The foreign policies of Russia and China have also emerged as ‘possible threats’ to the vital interests of Australia
Two-thirds of people in Australia see China as a “security threat”, while only a third see it as “more of an economic partner”, according to the results of a new poll from an independent Australian think tank.
The perceptions of China by Australians this year have not changed since 2021, according to the Lowy Institute, which collected opinions from 2,006 Australian adults in March.
It also showed that 64 per cent of Australians are also concerned about “a military conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan”, representing a 12-point increase from last year and 29 points higher than in 2020.
“Trust, warmth and confidence in China and China’s leader started to decline in 2017, and continue to remain at record lows in 2022,” said Natasha Kassam, director of the Lowy Institute’s Public Opinion and Foreign Policy programme.
“There is also increased concern about the potential for China to pose a military threat in the region and to Australia.”
“However, warmth towards and trust in the United States have not returned to the high levels that were recorded during the Obama years,” added Kassam, referring to former US president Barack Obama who served from 2009-17 before the Trump administration.
More than three quarters of Australians agree that “Australia’s alliance with the United States makes it more likely Australia will be drawn into a war in Asia that would not be in Australia’s interests”, according to the poll.
Along with increased concerns about safety and security, the poll said, Australians have downgraded their view of the country’s economic prospects.
Six in 10 said that they are “very optimistic” or “optimistic” about Australia’s economic performance in the world over the next five years, which represents a 17-point fall from 2021 but remains 10 points ahead of the record low in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
But support for free trade continues to see an upwards trajectory, the poll showed, with 78 per cent of Australians agreeing that it “is good for the Australian economy and for Australian companies”.
Xiao Qian, China’s ambassador to Australia, said on Friday that Australia had caused a breakdown in relations between the two nations but that there is still an opportunity to improve the bilateral relationship if the new Albanese government in Canberra took action.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner and the biggest customer for its iron ore, but relations have deteriorated in recent years.
Beijing imposed trade sanctions on Australian products in response to calls from the previous Morrison administration for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and the decision to ban Huawei Technologies Co. from Australia’s 5G network.