Researchers at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and department of political science at the University of British Columbia have released the results from their October 2019 national opinion survey on Canadian public attitudes on China and Canada-China relations.
It is the fourth survey in two years that has probed views on a wide range of perceptions, beliefs and policy preferences.
The survey was conducted amidst a major diplomatic rift between the two countries, concern and anger about two Canadians arbitrarily detained in China, intense media attention and negative commentary, and increasing anxieties about Chinese domestic and international behaviour on topics including Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
The key finding is that public attitudes are surprisingly stable and generally supportive of continued contact at multiple levels with China despite significant worries and uncertainties about China and a lack of trust in the U.S.
The chill is real. China is now viewed favourably by 29 per cent of Canadians, down from 36 per cent two years ago but up from 22 per cent in February.
In seven dimensions of international leadership, China is now seen ahead of the U.S. in only one—the expectation that it will be the largest economy within a decade. Two years ago, it was perceived to be ahead in four.
Worries are increasing about China’s domestic impact in Canada, especially cyber security and espionage, as well as China’s expanding military capabilities.
Distrust of China is not translating into more trust for the U.S. Confidence in Donald Trump is below that of Xi Jinping and a significant majority believe Canada cannot trust the US to do the right thing in the world. By a margin of more than two to one, Canadians disagree with the proposition that Canada should support US policy even if it means worsening relations with China. Fully two-thirds foresee a Sino-U.S. trade war having major consequences for Canada.
The desire for continued economic exchange with China remains strong. In six of seven areas Canadians see expanded economic interaction with China as contributing to economic prosperity. Sixty-two per cent still support negotiation of a bilateral free trade agreement.
A slight plurality support the proposition that it was a mistake to arrest Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou and also think she should be released before court proceedings conclude. Three quarters believe that Canada has been trapped in the middle of a U.S.-China dispute.
Half do not want Huawei playing a major role in Canada’s 5G system even as 43 per cent support its continuing investment in research and development in Canada.