US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The coronavirus pandemic opened its eyes to the world of the true nature of the Chinese regime – countless articles have told us this in the past few weeks. And, perhaps, their authors are not mistaken. However, in Europe, it is the US reaction to coronavirus, even more so than the reaction of China, that deeply worries politicians and the general public.
On Monday, the results of a study by the Körber Foundation were published, and they serve as further confirmation of the above. The results are simply amazing, they should make seriously think of all those people in Washington who believe that the United States-led front against China will be created as a result of the current crisis.
The results of the study show that the Germans today are divided almost in half on the question of who is the more important partner – Washington or Beijing, while 37% of respondents chose the United States, and 36% opted for China. These data indicate a significant shift compared with the results of the previous survey conducted by the Kerber Foundation in September 2019. Then the Germans provided the United States with an impressive 26% advantage over China.
This does not mean that the Germans give China a “free ticket” and are ready to agree with everything. 71% of Germans surveyed agree that greater transparency on the part of the Chinese leadership could limit the impact of coronavirus or even stop the spread of this pandemic. However, only 6% of respondents said that their opinions about China have worsened, while 73% of respondents think that their opinions about the United States have become worse during the current crisis.
What does all this mean? First of all, this is a definite warning. Few expect transparency from the Chinese Communist Party (PPC). Many people rank the United States to a higher standard, and are easier to disappoint when it comes to Washington’s failure.
Moreover, the Germans’ opinion of the United States is among the most negative in all of Europe, and has been going on since Donald Trump appeared in the White House. This was the case under President George W. Bush, but the Germans’ opinion changed sharply in a positive direction immediately after he was replaced by Barack Obama as president. Germany’s public opinion is changeable, whether it’s good or bad, and its attitude towards the United States is greatly influenced by the person who sits in the Oval Office.
“The Germans’ opinion about the United States was in free fall even before the crisis caused by coronavirus,” Nora Müller, executive director of the Kerber Foundation, said in an interview with Forin Polisi magazine. “Doubts about the Trump administration’s actions in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and the alleged lack of global leadership in the United States has obviously exacerbated alienation.”
On the other hand, German politicians should take broader considerations into account when balancing relations with Washington and Beijing. The United States is a democracy, and this country shares fundamental values with Europe. Whereas China is not a democracy. The United States has guaranteed the security of Germany as well as other European states for over 75 years. China spent most of this time on its own.
However, the world is changing. Perhaps we are witnessing the rise of the Asian century. Politicians in Germany and other European countries see a shift in geopolitical lines, and this affects their calculations. They see the Chinese Communist Party, which during the first weeks hid data about the virus, and after the virus spread around the world, it launched an aggressive propaganda and misinformation campaign, thus trying to change the narrative in its favor. They also see how the Chinese Communist Party successfully restrained the spread of coronavirus at home – although the tactics used for this are not acceptable to liberal democracies – when they set themselves such a task. For this reason, the Chinese economy seems to recover faster.
And when they look at the United States, they see chaos – in this country, where more than 91 thousand Americans died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, politicians are not able to set aside their contradictions and act together. They see the administration, which shies away from contacts with science and from cooperation at a time when they are especially needed. And they see a president who seems ready to apply scorched earth tactics to Sino-US relations, if necessary to save his weakening chances of re-election.
The important thing is that Trump is perceived in Europe not as a reason for the disruption of the normal functioning of the United States, but rather as a symptom of this process or its catalyst. Even if Joe Biden is sitting in the White House next January, the paralyzing split between parties will not go away. And the same can be said of the economic damage caused by the crisis, which the Americans, after decades of increasingly less capable governments, seem to be completely unprepared to cope with. Perhaps working with the United States will be easier after Trump leaves. But will it be easier for how long? The US reaction to coronavirus has deepened such doubts in Germany, as well as in other European countries.
According to a survey conducted this month by the British Foreign Policy Group, only 28% of Britons said they were confident that the United States was responsible in the world, and that’s 13% less than in January of this year. Conservative voters, who previously had a very high level of trust in the United States, provided the most significant loss of confidence.
In a survey conducted by Ifop, a survey company, the French were asked this month about which country is in the best position to deal with the main problems of the coming decades. Only 3% of respondents chose the United States. A survey conducted in April by the SWG research institute showed: 36% of Italians believe that their country should focus on relations with China, while 30% chose the United States.
According to a study by the Kerber Foundation, members of the younger generation brought up on reports of the Iraq war, on stories of espionage activities by the National Security Agency, and now on Trump, showed the greatest skepticism about the United States. Among Germans between the ages of 18 and 34, 46% said the importance of relations with China, while the United States chose 35% of respondents from this group.
This does not mean that Europe is moving towards an equal distance policy towards the United States and China. For many years now, there has been growing concern about the direction in which China is moving under the leadership of President Xi Jinping: more government control, more surveillance, more intimidation outside its borders. However, this does not mean that Europe will continue to exercise caution if it is necessary to side with Washington and oppose Beijing.
Do you agree to fight back a school bully with an old friend if this friend is unreliable? But what if this friend starts to bully you, how did the United States do this with Europe on the issue of creating 5G networks? Apparently, Washington is now doing the same with respect to the United Kingdom, insisting that it must choose between a trade deal with Washington and Beijing. You probably won’t want to oppose the school bully with such a friend.
Instead, Europe is trying to hedge itself. She is currently negotiating with Beijing on a comprehensive investment agreement and joint action on climate change. The conclusion of these transactions will require considerable time. But if they are nevertheless concluded, and during the presidential campaign in the United States, this will be another signal that the United States is losing Europe and losing it to its main foreign policy priority – China.
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