Research reveals Chinese views of the EU

25 Feb 2011 15:47:00.000

PA 67/11

Chinese people think much more favourably about the European Union than the United States or Japan, according to a scientific survey of 3,000 urban residents across six cities in China. Just over half, 55 per cent, said they liked European ideas about democracy, the survey showed.

Despite this high score for the EU, only 42 per cent of respondents thought current China-EU relations were good, although a similar number, 46 per cent, were cautiously optimistic about improved future relations.

Soccer, cars and fashion are the top three things about Europe that Chinese people are most interested in, according to the survey, an EU research project led by the China Policy Institute at The University of Nottingham, which was carried out by scholars from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Beijing’s Renmin University, working with partners from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

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When Chinese people think about European historical figures, the top three that spring to mind are Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin, according to the survey, with Karl Marx ranking only fourth. The survey was funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework research support programme.

Asked for which countries or regions they held a favourable impression, 74 per cent said the European Union and 74 per cent Russia, compared with 60 per cent for the US and only 38 per cent Japan.

Nearly 78 per cent of respondents expressed a favourable impression towards EU citizens, compared to 74 per cent towards Russians, 72 per cent towards Americans and only 39 per cent towards Japanese.

When asked how friendly China’s current relationship is with various countries or regions however, China-Russia relations ranked highest, followed by China’s relations with the EU, the US and Japan.

Asked about China’s external relations, only 43 per cent thought that the current China-EU relations were good, with another 36 per cent holding a neutral view. But 46 per cent of respondents were cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the China-EU relationship, and 16 per cent very optimistic.

The survey was carried out during 2010 in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in the South and Xian in the northwest, Chengdu in western China and Nanning in the southwest.

Relations between China and the EU reached a low point in December 2008, when China cancelled a planned EU-China summit after French President Nicholas Sarkozy met with the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, while holding the EU’s rotating presidency. Earlier that year pro-Tibet demonstrations in Paris and other European capitals marred China’s Olympic torch relay shortly before the Olympic Games began in Beijing. Ties have subsequently improved.

When thinking about Europe, the countries that first spring to mind among Chinese people are France, the UK and Germany in that order, according to the survey. The cities that first come to mind are Paris, London and Berlin, in the same order.

However, only two per cent said they were pessimistic about EU-China relations. Chinese people evaluate the EU’s role in the world highly, with 85 per cent saying they were positive about the EU’s role in furthering scientific progress and 86 per cent highly evaluated its role in global environmental protection. A smaller number, 70 per cent, thought the EU played a positive role in working for world peace, 63 per cent thought the EU played a positive role in fighting international terrorism, and 62 per cent in fighting poverty.

While 80 per cent admired Europe for its technological and scientific advances, only 55 per cent said they liked European ideas about democracy; while less than half, 47 per cent, said they liked European ways of doing business.

From a given list of 11 plus one open choice, the top ten things that Chinese people were most interested in about Europe were soccer, cars, fashion, perfume, historical sites, music, movies, nature, technology and beer in that order.

A very high proportion of Chinese, 85 per cent, thought it was good that European cultures were spreading in China; while nearly 81 per cent thought it good that European fashion was spreading in China. Just over 67 per cent said they liked European music, while 68 per cent said they liked European movies.

Detailed knowledge of the EU however was limited among the Chinese surveyed, with only 28 per cent correctly identifying the headquarters of the EU as being in Brussels. Only 9 per cent knew that the EU had 27 member states.

The research team, made up of social scientists from The University of Nottingham and the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in the UK, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Renmin University in Beijing, Leiden University of the Netherlands and Jacobs University of Bremen in Germany, surveyed 3,019 urban residents between the ages of 18 and 70.

The survey, the results of which were announced at an academic conference in London, is part of a project to disaggregate Chinese views of the EU and to explore the policy implications for the European Union, financed by a grant competitively awarded by the European Commission under its Socio-Economic and Humanities research support programme.

The project’s coordinator, Dr Zhengxu WANG, said in a paper delivered at the conference the research showed that the more knowledgeable people were about a country or region, the more positive an attitude they had towards it. This and other factors meant that the EU had an opportunity to influence China’s foreign policy through promoting greater knowledge about the EU itself, he concluded in a joint paper written with Bogdan Popescu of the University of Nottingham’s School of Politics and International Relations.

Dr Wang is acting director of the China Policy Institute, which is the research institute of Nottingham’s School of Contemporary Chinese Studies and one of the EU’s leading China think tanks.

Detailed findings of the research will be published shortly, and a series of conferences held later this year to explore the implications for the EU’s China policy.

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Notes to editors: For more information about the China Policy Institute, visit:  

The University of Nottingham, described by The Times as “the nearest Britain has to a truly global university”, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK’s Top Ten and the world’s Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

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More information is available from Dr Zhengxu Wang, Acting Director of the China Policy Institute, at or on +44 (0)115 82 32117
Simon Butt

Simon Butt - Stakeholder Relations and Campaign Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 84 67156 Location: University Park

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