The rise of China became a global concern and a target for social scientific analysis/for social and scientific analysis approximately 15 years ago. A search for the rise of China on Google Books Ngram Viewer reveals a sharp increase in related English literature from 2008 to 2009, when the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers affected the US economy, and China increased its global presence as a result of the successful management of the Beijing Olympics.
The rise of China has been perceived differently across various countries, however. Japan and South Korea welcome China's economic development, although they remain wary of the country’s military development. However, Vietnam is wary of China’s economic development, while perceptions of China's military development are divided in Indonesia. Such comparisons are possible through large-scale public opinion surveys which have been conducted since the beginning of the 21st century, resulting in the accumulation of worldwide chronological data. Public opinion polls on perceptions of China have been widely conducted, even in African and Arabic countries. In light of these circumstances and trends, the publication project of this book was launched, aiming to clarify the factors influencing perceptions of China in different countries and identifying characteristics by analyzing public opinion survey data. I became acquainted with Prof. Yu Xie, a co-editor of this book who is leading the China Impact Project at the Center on Contemporary China at Princeton, through the introduction of Dr. Chen Chih-Jou, Director of the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, who is leading the Impact of China Factor project at his institute and contributed a paper to one of the chapters in our book. Prof. Xie and I spent a significant amount of time engaged in online editorial work (email or Zoom) because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The following findings of interest are discussed in our book: (1) there is strong tendency for relatively developed democratic countries to have a negative perception of China, (2) countries which receive a large amount of investment from China tend to have positive perceptions of China, (3) media framing in the US plays a vital role in influencing perceptions of China, and (4) the spread of COVID-19 has negatively influenced perceptions of China in OECD countries since 2020. You may think that these findings do not offer any new or compelling insights, but the biggest contribution of our book is to confirm the findings using different types of data, including extensive opinion poll survey data.
Understanding a country’s perceptions of China is difficult because one must not only be informed about China, but also understand the country's relationship with China. Sometimes, researchers must utilize a variety of data, including news reports and online discussions, to obtain directions and evidence for their analyses. Despite these difficulties, it is increasingly necessary to be aware of and examine our mindset/perceptions and attitudes toward foreign countries, including China, particularly when we are witnessing intensifying US-China tensions as well as a prolonged Russo-Ukraine war. It is our hope that the younger generation will join our project.
(Written by SONODA Shigeto, Professor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia / 2023)
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