The administration’s ostentatious attempt to separate the Chinese government and people has been particularly ineffective. A recent study by the John F. Kennedy School’s Ash Center observed: “We find that first, since the start of the survey in 2003, Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtually across the board. From the impact of broad national policies to the conduct of local town officials, Chinese citizens rate the government as more capable and effective than ever before.” That could change, but not likely as a result of vilification by Washington officials.
The administration’s overreach is unnecessary. Beijing has turned out to be its own worst enemy abroad. For instance, in the early days of COVID-19’s spread, the Xi government attempted to use medical aid to win political points. At the same time, PRC officials engaged in “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, insulting, demanding, and haranguing other governments. These efforts backfired spectacularly, especially after some of the personal protective equipment and other goods proved to be defective. China was accused of attempting to take advantage of a medical crisis which it did much to create.
Beijing’s willingness to essentially take hostages, arresting Westerners on faux evidence when involved in disputes with their governments, also has sullied the PRC’s global reputation. In early September, Chinese security personnel visited two Australian journalists, announcing that they were barred from leaving and would be questioned the next day. Unwilling to risk disappearing into a Chinese prison where people can be held for months or years without charges even being filed, they fled to the protection of Australian diplomats, who negotiated an exit.
China has largely brought this problem upon itself by focusing on political priorities. Georgia State University’s Maria Repnikova observed: “The Wolf Warrior diplomacy doesn’t work well in the Western context, but it’s often oriented toward domestic audiences within China because it makes China seem stronger and withstanding Western pressures.”
Overall, the PRC’s image has tumbled badly. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center: