Turning away from the West? Three quarters of Russians think well of China – but fewer than half feel positive about US & EU

The prospect of closer ties between Moscow and Beijing has long worried some analysts in the US and EU. But a new poll finds Russians are far more upbeat about their Eastern neighbors than those to their West.

Researchers asked more than 1,600 people across the country for their views on three of the world’s most powerful geopolitical entities. Conducted by The Levada Center – a political pollster registered by Russia’s Ministry of Justice as a foreign agent because it receives funding from abroad – the study found the public had a clear preference for only one possible ally.

Just 45 percent of those surveyed said that they had a positive opinion of the EU, down from 62 percent in an equivalent poll ten years ago. The proportion of those saying they had a negative view of Brussels and its member states had also risen from 22 percent to more than one in three.

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Washington fares even worse in the latest data, with the number of people saying they have a negative view of the US outweighing those who have a positive one. Some 43 percent said they thought poorly of America, while only 40 percent thought of it in a favorable light. This is a significant nosedive in sentiments towards the country since 2011, when those with a positive opinion outnumbered detractors by 21 percent.

Compared across the decade though, only China’s star is rising. Three quarters of those polled said they thought well of the world’s most populous country, with just 14 percent saying they had a more negative opinion. This means attitudes have softened towards Beijing since 2011, when 21 percent were wary of the nation.

Interestingly, the youngest group of Russians, those aged 18-24, were by far the most likely to have positive feelings about both the US and EU. However, they also looked fondly at China in greater numbers.

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In January, Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi lavished praise on ties between the two countries, which he said had “stood the test of a once-in-a-century pandemic and unprecedented global changes, and reached a historic high in all respects.”

“The year 2021 is a year of special importance for China-Russia relations, as both countries will enter a new development stage,” he promised.

Analysts have noted, however, that while Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has described his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as his “best friend,” both countries still have a long way to go to form an effective political or military partnership if they seek to challenge the influence of blocs like the EU or international organizations like NATO.

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