- Recent polling suggests Europeans are turning away from the US under President Donald Trump’s leadership.
- Public opinion toward America has declined in major European countries since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Seventy-six per cent of Germans in a new poll said their view of America had deteriorated because of the crisis.
- Roughly equal numbers of Germans in the poll favoured maintaining close relationships with China and the US in a head-to-head matchup.
- One poll last week found that just 2% of French people trusted Trump to provide world leadership.
- China is exerting growing political, diplomatic, and financial power across Europe.
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President Donald Trump is presiding over the deterioration of the US’s position on the world stage as European countries increasingly look toward China as a future global leader.
This shift is apparent in a series of recent opinion polls that found European sentiment toward the US to be in decline since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
New polling published in Germany this week found that an overwhelming majority of Germans said they had a worse opinion of the US because of the pandemic.
The survey found that 76% of Germans said their view of the US had deteriorated because of the pandemic, compared with 36% who said the same of China.
The poll found:
- Germans were largely split when asked whether they favoured maintaining close relations with China or the US.
- 37% of Germans said it was more important to maintain close relations with the US, compared to 36% who said the same of China.
- That was a big drop from a poll last year, when 50% of Germans said maintaining US relations was the priority, compared with just 24% who said China.
- In a separate question, just 10% of Germans saw the US as the country’s most important global partner, down from 19% last year. Six per cent said the same of China, down 1 percentage point from the year before.
Separate polling conducted in the UK also found a deterioration in Britain’s view of the US since the pandemic began.
Asked at the end of last month whether Britain should forge a stronger relationship with Europe or with the US, 35% of Brits told the pollsters YouGov that Europe should be the priority, compared with just 13% who said the US.
That’s a net shift of 6 percentage points toward Europe since early November and came despite Britain’s exit from the European Union in January.
The shift comes amid global shock about recent interventions by President Donald Trump on the coronavirus pandemic.
The president’s comments speculating that disinfectant might be used to treat coronavirus patients caused widespread disbelief and horror in many European countries.
“Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger,” the Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote last month in response to Trump’s comments.
“But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”
Reports that Trump had attempted to buy exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine being developed in Germany also triggered anger on the continent.
Trump’s behaviour has highlighted already widespread negative feelings in Europe toward the president, with one survey last week finding that just 2% of French people trusted Trump to lead the world.
Europe is ignoring Trump’s threats about China
This shift is also seen in the behaviour of European governments, which appear increasingly willing to ignore Trump’s threats about forging closer ties with China.
A series of European countries are working on deals with the Chinese telecoms company Huawei to develop their 5G networks, despite increasingly aggressive threats from the White House.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who Trump was said to have hung up on in a moment of “apoplectic” fury earlier this year for defying the president’s threats on Huawei, is pushing ahead with plans to allow the company 5G development rights.
Several other European countries are also pushing ahead with similar deals despite threats from the Trump administration of a new trade war.
Beijing is also demonstrating an increasing ability to wield diplomatic pressure on Europe, even when it counters the wishes of Washington.
The European Union recently removed references to a Chinese campaign of “global disinformation” from an official report into propaganda spread by foreign powers, following diplomatic pressure from Beijing.
As Trump withdraws, China opens its coffers to the world
Europe’s reluctance to criticise China may be due in part to the increasing economic dominance of Beijing.
A recent report by the investment bank GP Bullhound suggests that since the European tech markets reopened, China has caught up with the US in terms of investment in European tech companies for the first time since 2018.
China’s investment extends to critical scientific investment as well.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported this week that Huawei had invested £5 million into a new tech centre at Imperial College London.
The investment has triggered controversy because scientists at Imperial have been central to advising the UK government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
What is clear is that with the global economy heading for a deep recession, European governments, public institutions, and companies are increasingly turning toward China for support and investment.
And with public opinion toward the US deteriorating in Europe under Trump’s leadership, China’s resurgence could well come at America’s cost.