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China’s Territorial Disputes Take Toll on Global Image, Pew Says

Anti-China protesters march while shouting slogans during a rally in downtown Ho Chi Minh City on May 11, 2014. Photographer: Le Quang Nhat/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-China protesters march while shouting slogans during a rally in downtown Ho Chi Minh City on May 11, 2014. Photographer: Le Quang Nhat/AFP/Getty Images

July 15 (Bloomberg) -- China’s territorial disputes are taking a toll on its image with many Asians concerned its claims will lead to military conflicts, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Majorities of people surveyed in eight of 11 Asian nations worry China’s disputes could lead to armed clashes, including 93 percent of Filipinos, 85 percent of Japanese, 84 percent of Vietnamese and 83 percent of South Koreans, the report released in Washington yesterday said.

China is embroiled in a dispute with Japan over islets in the East China Sea, with Vietnam for oil exploration in contested waters, and with the Philippines where it is building artificial islands in an area claimed by both. China also says part of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese.

“Asians’ concerns about China reflect the fact that, as Asia’s largest economic and military power sitting at the center of the region, Beijing has territorial disputes with many of its neighbors,” the report said.

China’s neighbors aren’t alone. In the U.S., which is allied with Japan and the Philippines, 67 percent of respondents were concerned about the prospect of military conflict arising from the disputes and among the Chinese themselves, 62 percent expressed concern, the report showed.

China’s growing economic might is considered a good thing by most countries, though China’s increasing prosperity is considered a threat in some.

Across 43 nations, a median of 49 percent expressed a favorable opinion of China, while 32 percent gave an unfavorable rating, the report showed.

China’s image in the U.S. has deteriorated, with 35 percent expressing a positive view, down from half in 2011, the report said.

In Asia, two-thirds or more of those surveyed in the predominately Muslim nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia voiced a favorable overall opinion of China. A majority also held positive views in Thailand and South Korea.

In contrast, majorities in Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines had unfavorable overall views of China.

Pew surveyed 48,643 respondents in 44 countries from March 17 to June 5.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Tweed in Hong Kong at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at Neil Western, Tony Jordan

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