Thursday February 27, 2020


July 17, 2014

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center released Monday, perceptions of China vary greatly from country to country. The Pew Global Attitudes Project shows that Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea have the most favorable views of China in the Asia Pacific region, all with well over 50% approval ratings. A number of factors may contribute to these opinions, but there is a common trend in the countries with high approval ratings of China: None of these nations are in territorial disputes with China. On the other hand, Japan and Vietnam have the most negative outlook on China in the Asia Pacific region with 91% and 78% unfavorable view, respectively. Both nations are locked in a standoff with China over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. China’s military aggression in the East and South China Seas draw adverse opinions from many nations in the Asia Pacific Region, generating fear that rising tension will lead to conflict.

Countries in China’s neighborhood show largely favorable opinions of China’s tremendous economic growth. Many countries, including Thailand (75%), Bangladesh (70%), and Malaysia (69%), feel that China’s economic growth benefits their own country. Contrarily, 71% of Vietnamese feel that China’s economy negatively affects their own country. Once again, these opinions of China’s economy reflect which nations are in territorial conflicts with China and which are not. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, foreign direct investment increased by 2.2% in the last year to a total of $63 billion. However, in the month of June, the numbers only rose by 0.2%.  This sudden slowdown may also be a result of recent maritime conflicts.

Indeed, six countries have overlapping claims over territory in the East China and South China Seas. Tensions over these territorial claims have risen considerably in recent months. The islands claimed in this region, while mostly uninhabited, are rich in natural resources like hydrocarbon and natural gas. The longest lasting conflict is over a set of islands claimed by both Japan and China, termed the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese and the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese.

There are strong concerns in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, India, and Vietnam, that the maritime territorial disputes will lead to military conflict between China and its neighbors. Sixty-two percent of Chinese citizens surveyed share this concern. With the recent construction of the Chinese drilling platform in the disputed waters by the Paracel Islands, 84% of Vietnamese citizens surveyed are concerned these territorial disputes would lead to war. (The Paracel Islands are an archipelago in the South China Sea claimed by both China and Vietnam.) Similarly, Japan (85%) and the Philippines (93%) feel their respective disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and the Spratly Islands will lead to military conflict with China. As a result, the majority of Vietnamese, Filipinos, Japanese, and South Koreans surveyed view China as the top threat to their country.

On Tuesday, Chinese officials urged “countries outside the region” to stay out of the disputes. Meanwhile, China continues to reinforce its claim over territories in the East and South China Seas in a variety of ways. Most recently, a publishing house in China released a new vertical national map claiming the disputed territories were indeed part of China. The map produced strong reactions from Vietnam and the Philippines, but China Daily author Wang Junming argues “the publication of the map can help promote Chinese public’s territorial awareness and high-light its historic title over the South China Sea and is thus a legitimate move.”

As tension continues to rise in the East and South China Seas, the fear of impending conflict looms over the Asia Pacific region. While many feel conflict is inevitable, it is difficult to predict exactly how the maritime territorial disputes will play out with so many nations involved. It is clear, however, that if conflict does break out, more than simply the nations holding claim to the disputed territories will be affected.


For more information on the conflicts in the East and South China Seas, see the following news articles:

Pew Research Global Attitudes Project“Chapter 4: How Asians View Each Other”

Pew Research Global Attitudes Project“Chapter 2: China’s Image”

Pew Research Global Attitudes Project“Global Opposition to U.S. Surveillance and Drones, but Limited Harm to America’s Image”

The Diplomat“China and Strategic Imbalance”

The Diplomat-“Anti-China Rhetoric Isn’t Causing Problems, China Is”

The New York Times, Sinosphere“American Anxieties About China Grow Slightly, Survey Finds”

Forbes- “Services Are A Bright Spot As Foreign Investment In China Turns Languid”

Washington Post“How Asia is Scared of China”

Time“Many Asian Nations Believe That a War With China Is Looming”
CNBC“China neighbors worry sea dispute will lead to war: Survey”

China Daily“China urges countries to stay out of disputes”

China Daily“New map boosts China’s claim in sea”

Council on Foreign Relations“China’s Maritime Disputes”


For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:



Compiled and Edited by Erin Monroe