The Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center has released a new survey looking at how people in the Asia-Pacific region view each other.
The study found that, overall, despite territorial disputes and historical frictions, people tend to view each other favorably —with a fair margin of those surveyed looking upon Japan as the most favorable nation amongst the four largest Asian economies, which includes China, India and South Korea.
The Pew survey, which included face-to-face and phone interviews, was conducted with 15,313 adults in 10 countries from April 6 to May 27, 2015.
The counties surveyed were: Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, India, Pakistan and the United States.
Of that group, a median of 71% said they hold favorable views of Japan, with positive views exceeding negative sentiment by more than five-to-one.
In second was China, with 57% holding a favorable view, followed by India at 51%.
South Korea, which is often heralded for its soft power outreach through Hallyu, also known as “The Korean Wave,” ranked lowest in the survey with only 47% saying they view the country in a favorable light.
Pew researchers noted that South Korea’s low favorable rating of 47% is “in part due to a higher proportion of those surveyed who express no opinion.”
Pew researchers noted that Korea’s low numbers are “in part due to a higher proportion of those surveyed who express no opinion. Nevertheless, favorable views of South Korea outweigh negative sentiment by two-to-one.”
No love for Japan in China and South Korea
While APAC countries in general view each other favorably, the survey found, there were some exceptions that reflect historical frictions –especially between China, Japan and South Korea.
Japan for example enjoys a highly positive image amongst Malaysians (84%), Vietnamese (82%), Filipinos (81%), Australians (80%) and Indonesians (71%).
Aside of Malaysia where favorability of Japan jumped 9 points, Japan’s favorability numbers remained largely unchanged from 2014. (As a point of comparison, 74% of Americans hold positive views of Japan.)
South Korea and China, on the other hand, held very low views of Japan, with only 12% of Chinese and 25% of South Koreans expressing a positive opinion of the Japanese.
In terms of age, the survey found that the younger generation of South Koreans (18 to 29) are more favorable towards Japan by a 34-percentage-point differential with those 50 and older.
Those holding the most positive views of Japan are young Vietnamese (59% very favorable), while the the most anti-Japanese sentiments come from older Chinese (55% very unfavorable).
Interestingly, the study noted, more than a third of Indians and Pakistanis told surveyors that they have no opinion about Japan.
Favorability towards China
A majority of people in the Asia-Pacific have a positive view of China –Malaysians (78%), Indonesians (63%) and South Koreans (61%).
Of interest was that, despite heated disputes in the South China sea, public views of China rose over the past year with people in the Philippines (+16 points) as well as with age old continental rival India (+10 points).
Not so for the Vietnamese and the Japanese, with only 19% in Vietnam and 9% in Japan viewing China in a positive light.
Views of China are far more positive in Asia-Pacific than they are in America, with only 38% of Americans holding a favorable opinion.
Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center, remarked that while Japan holds a more favorable view than China, neither country’s leaders are held in such high regard.
A median of 47 percent have confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping to “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ranked even lower at 43 percent for his handling of international relations.
To read the full report, visit the Pew Research Center website.