Australians' trust in China plummets amid rifts

Sydney (AFP) –


Australians' trust in China has collapsed, according to a public opinion poll Wednesday that showed the impact of rising confrontations between the two trading partners.

A survey from Sydney's Lowy Institute showed the number of Australians who trust Beijing to act responsibly on the world stage fell from 52 percent in 2018 to a record low of 23 percent today.

China has become increasingly assertive under President Xi Jinping, as Beijing looks to translate its rising economic might into political, diplomatic and military power.

But the muscle-flexing has caused a series of disputes with regional neighbours -- from border skirmishes with India to public diplomatic spats with Australia.

Recent months have seen China slap trade sanctions on Australian goods, sentence an Australian citizen to death and mock Canberra's long-standing alliance with the United States.

Beijing had been angered by Australia's push-back against technology giant Huawei, public complaints about Chinese spying and influence-peddling in the country and calls for an independent inquiry into the origins and management of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Trust in our largest trading partner -- China -- has declined precipitously," Lowy director Michael Fullilove said in announcing the survey results.

"Confidence in China's leader Xi Jinping, has fallen even further."

Ninety-four percent of respondents said they would like to see Australia reduce economic dependence on China and 82 percent backed sanctions on Chinese officials linked to human rights abuses.

China accounts for around a quarter of all Australian trade, according to official statistics -- with Australian minerals helping build China's heavy industry and fuel power generation.

The poll has been conducted since 2005 and this year surveyed 2,448 adults across Australia.