China has grown more popular than the United States, according to a recently released poll that quizzed more than 24,000 people around the world about whether countries and the European Union affected the world for good or for ill.
China has long been popular in Nigeria and Kenya, where most people polled said it had a positive influence, but jumped in popularity this year in Britain, Canada, Australia and other countries, according to the GlobeScan poll, done in partnership with the University of Maryland for the BBC World Service. Half of the people polled outside China said the country had a mainly positive effect on the world.
A slim majority of the people who said China had a positive effect credited its economy, products and services for their opinion. "It is Chinese economic assistance to these countries and their closer economic ties with China that have improved China's popularity in these countries," Su Hao of China Foreign Affairs University told China Daily.
Yet its economic influence was also the top reason given by people who said China hurt the world, followed by “the way China treats its people” and foreign policy.
The U.S. dropped slightly in popularity in the last year, the poll found, with 47% of people polled outside the country saying it had a largely good influence. Nigeria and Kenya -- the same countries that rank China highly -- view the U.S. the most highly out of the countries polled.
But the U.S. has become much less popular in Nigeria than it used to be, and it has also lost points in South Korea, Chile and Russia. The main reason people gave for disliking the U.S. was its foreign policy. European countries and the European Union also fell.
"The turmoil in the EU ... has raised doubts in people's minds about its continued ability to be a global leader," said Chris Coulter, president of the GlobeScan polling firm. "Hopes are turning to China."
The most popular country of all was Japan, which overtook Germany in the rankings this year with 58% of respondents saying it had a mainly positive effect on the world. The only place polled where Japan was truly unpopular was China, where only 16% of respondents said it had a good influence.
The overall rankings, based on the percentage of people who said the country or countries had a positive effect, in descending order were: Japan, Germany, Canada, Britain, China, France, the European Union, the United States, Brazil, India, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese President Hu Jintao attend the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing on May 3, 2012. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images