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Almost 80 per cent of Canadians have a negative view of China, according to a new report from Pew Research, an increase of five percentage points from last year’s record high.

Only 14 per cent of Canadians said they had a favourable view of China, while 79 per cent said the opposite. Only five years ago, less than half – 45 per cent – of respondents said they felt unfavourably toward Beijing.

Such negative views are shared in most other countries surveyed by Pew, which has been conducting polling on this issue for two decades. Researchers found 67 per cent of respondents across 24 countries had a disapproving view of China, while 28 per cent viewed the country approvingly.

U.S. views trend even more negatively than those of Canadians, with 83 per cent of Americans saying they felt unfavourably toward China. While older people in both countries were more likely to be critical of Beijing, large majorities of Americans and Canadians aged 18 to 39 – 76 and 69 per cent respectively – also said they had a negative view. Half of Americans named China as the “greatest threat” to their country – almost three times the number – 17 per cent – who cited Russia as an adversary.

Asked whether China interferes in other countries’ affairs, 45 per cent of Canadians said Beijing does so “a great deal,” more than any other country surveyed. This follows months of allegations of Chinese meddling in Canadian politics, which have prompted calls for a public inquiry.

A guide to foreign interference and China’s suspected influence in Canada

Relations between Beijing and Ottawa are currently in a deep freeze, and while China has endeavoured in recent months to improve ties with Washington, the news that few Canadians or Americans view China positively will likely not come as a surprise.

What might alarm policy-makers in Beijing, however, is the dramatic shift in Europe, where record-high numbers of respondents in almost every country surveyed said they had a negative view of China. This despite concerted efforts by Beijing to court leaders across the continent and position the European Union as a potential counterweight to an increasingly hostile Washington.

China’s support of Russia in its war against Ukraine has massively undermined this years-long effort, with the effects most keenly felt in Eastern Europe, where Beijing had previously enjoyed strong support. According to Pew, negative views in Poland, which neighbours Ukraine, increased 12 points over last year.

The Pew findings come as China’s foreign policy apparatus is in partial disarray this week, with the dismissal of foreign minister Qin Gang after just seven months in the job.

Mr. Qin, who has not been seen in public since June 25, was officially removed after a special meeting of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, on Tuesday. He has been replaced by his predecessor, Wang Yi, who also holds a senior foreign policy role within the ruling Communist Party.

Since his official dismissal, Mr. Qin’s name has been largely wiped from the website of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and mention of him has been censored online. This includes reports of his meetings last month with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where both sides said progress had been made in repairing a relationship that had become dangerously strained.

Asked about Mr. Qin at a regular news conference Thursday, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said China would release information in a “timely manner,” adding that Beijing did not appreciate the “malicious hype” surrounding Mr. Qin’s removal.

With a file from Reuters

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