Sunday, December 02, 2018

USA, China not very popular downunder

A new report from Gallup has shown that the people of New Zealand and Australia approve of Chinese leadership more than American leadership. This is bad news for the USA and the current regime in the White House, but it’s not exactly good news for China: Only a minority in both countries approve of Chinese leadership.

The chart above from Gallup shows the trends over the past decade and what is obvious is that the current occupant of the White House has soured New Zealanders’ view of American leadership. That’s because Kiwis had a very positive view of US leadership during the entire time that Barack Obama was president, with clear majorities of New Zealanders approving of US leadership. But as soon as the current occupant was elected, the approval rate plummeted from 51% to 19%. The last time we saw such low approval ratings was during the Bush/Cheney regime a decade ago.

But, hey, the current occupant should be happy! His approval rate in New Zealand was four points lower last year.

Australia’s approval of US leadership follows the same general pattern as the New Zealand’s. So has their approval of Chinese leadership.

China shouldn’t be happy with the results. More than half of Australians—52%—disapprove of Chinese leadership, while 40% of New Zealanders do. A couple years ago, roughly half of New Zealanders disapproved of Chinese leadership, which sounds like progress, but the current disapproval rate may have now gone back up. As Gallup notes, the poll was taken:
“…before news broke concerning increased Chinese interference and influence in New Zealand. Allegations have also emerged that individuals associated with the Chinese government engaged in criminal activity targeting a prominent critic of China's leadership, who resides in New Zealand.”
It was also before this past week’s decision by the government security bureau to ban Chinese company Huawei’s equipment from New Zealand’s 5G cellphone network. The company is already banned in Australia and the United states.

The fact is that both Australia and New Zealand governments are closely aligned with the USA, so the low regard that the two countries’ people have for US leadership won’t change anything. Electing a new president in 2020 could change everything again, just as the election of President Obama did. But it does make New Zealanders and Australians a bit more circumspect about the USA, which could have some affect down the road if this continues, and if the current occupant manages to win the election in 2020.

Similarly, the fact that Chinese leadership is viewed more favourably than that of the USA isn’t permanent and can be affected by the behaviour of the Chinese government. For example, of they continue to interfere in New Zealand’s internal politics their already very low approval rating could plummet. If they behave themselves, the approval rating could climb.

Obviously neither China nor the United States cares the least little bit what New Zealanders and Australians think of their countries’ leadership. They will do what they want based on their own national—and political—interests, just like always. This goes to show, though, that they can’t count on anyone else in the world to like what they do.

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