Sentiment in UK Against China Increases

April 30, 2020
China | Foreign Affairs

When we first wrote about the coming backlash against China in March, 15% of respondents to our poll back then thought China was ‘not to blame at all’ for the current pandemic. That figure has now dropped to just 9% in our latest poll this past Sunday. This mirrors the same change we saw among the US public. The share of respondents saying that China is ‘significantly to blame’ increased dramatically from 39% to 49%. Public sentiment is clearly increasing against the Chinese Government.

Three quarters of respondents to our poll thought the reported figures of cases and deaths were dishonestly reported. This is an increase of 6% of respondents from earlier this month.

What will the consequences of this distrust and animosity be?

Nearly three quarters of respondents think the Chinese government should be forced to allow an independent investigation into the origins of the pandemic comprised of investigators from different nations. Such a measure has recently been proposed by the Australian government.

Slightly more than half of respondents expressed agreement to a statement saying that China should pay reparations to the rest of the world for the damages and lives lost due to the pandemic.

Few respondents––only 10%––disagreed with a statement saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not been tough enough on China. Notably, in late January, the UK Government approved a deal allowing Huawei to sell its 5G technology in the country. Our polls then suggested the public thought the decision was a threat to the country’s national security.

Notably, 44% of Conservative voters agreed with this statement. Conservative voters altogether show a higher degree of distrust towards the Chinese government than those who voted for Labour or Liberal Democrat in the last election.

Thinking about a personal stand they themselves could make, slightly more than a third of respondents agreed with a statement saying that they would be unwilling to purchase a product if they knew it was made in China. 30% disagreed––although this number may change when the United Kingdom is able to source essential goods (particularly medical goods such as masks) from elsewhere.

If a significant number of consumers actively follow through on this threat, it would be enough to drive sellers to source their goods either locally or a more friendly country. This proportion would not need to reach a majority of consumers to affect this change, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s minority rule suggests.

Altogether, public sentiment in the UK appears to weigh increasingly very heavily against the Chinese government for its negligence in allowing this pandemic to spread beyond its own borders. We at Redfield & Wilton think the consequences will come very soon.

Data tables for this research can be found here. To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.