Institute of Ideas, 7 August 2008
• 86% of respondents think that it’s right for China to have been awarded the Olympic games.
“It is a sporting event and should be awarded to countries that put forward the bet proposal for hosting the games not the one who’s politics best suits us.” (Student, Male, 15-24)
“China is the right place to have attention drawn at the moment. Should do a great deal to aid in communication and integration.” (Student, Male, 15-24)
“Who is to say whether countries are morally fit or not to hold the games? Plus China seems to embody many of the Olympian ideals, currently lacking in many Western democracies.” (School teacher, Male, 35-44)
“Perhaps it is good that there will be a world focus on a country with a horrendous history of human-rights abuses and murder. It may precipitate the uncovering of what has happened [and what is still happening] and cause it to be discussed and tackled on an international level” (Actor, Female, 25-34)
• The largest percentage of respondents believe that the Beijing Olympics will improve their perceptions of China (45%), with a sizable majority (66%) believing that they will improve Western perceptions generally. Only 11% believed it would worsen their perception, with 22% believing it will worsen Western perceptions.
“Although this may express an overly optimistic view of the media, I believe it will be difficult for it to portray the effort gone into the games in a negative light.” (Student, Male, 15-24)
“My perceptions of China will not change as its human rights issues will remain unchanged with or without the Olympic Games. Given that Western en masse opinion is largely run by PR machines rather than regular inclusive democratic debate - the perception will be improved so as to sweep the serious issues under the carpet and continue with trade.” (Film Producer, Male, 25-34)
“I believe the Chinese Games and the increased publicity surrounding them has heightened our awareness of human rights issues and the lack of democracy within China.” (Strategic Consultant, Male, 45-54)
• The overwhelming majority of respondents (82%) said they would not consider boycotting the Olympics if they were competing.
“Politics and Sport should never, ever mix. Sport is sport, you play for your country, and that should be the only consideration.” (Student, Male, 15-24)
“I would consider boycotting the Olympics to make a public statement about China’s human rights record.” (Careers Information Office, Female, 25-34)
“I would not want to be used as political tool to bash China. I would want to compete to prove myself against the best in the world in front of the eyes of the world.” (Local Government Officer, Female, 45-54)
• 53% of respondents disagreed with the statement that Western democracies should take every opportunity, including the Beijing Olympics, to pressurise China to improve its human rights record. 47% agreed.
“It is for the Chinese to bring about improvements in human rights in China.” (Lawyer, Male, 35-44)
“Western ‘democracies’ have enough of a job answering for their own human rights record.” (Chef, Male, 15-24)
“Human Rights in China obviously should be improved but not via the Olympics, which should be a sporting event free from political issues.” (Educationalist, Female, 55-64)
“I think pushing this agenda is very important but doing it through the Olympics I believe will actually lead to the opposite outcome to the one that is wanted.” (Lobbyist, Female, 25-34)
“It is our obligation if we truly believe that these rights are important.” (Publisher, Male, 35-44)
• 42% of respondents think China has already become a superpower, with only 11% believing that it will never become one.
“It already is, and this fact will become more evident as the Chinese economy builds up its own consumer economy and is no longer dependent upon the West to maintain its growth.” (Chef, Male, 15-24)
“China still has many areas to improve on. Such as eliminating the gap between the rich and poor and developing its countryside.” (Student, Female, 15-24)
“Given its size, history, intellectual and physical power - it is inevitable.” (Professor, Male, 45-54)
• The majority of respondents (62%) think that China will become a democracy.
“Economic growth invariably leads to people demanding greater freedom. Rise of entrepreneurial and middle class, essentially the people who make money, tend to object when they get absolutely no say in what happens to their money.” (Student, Male, 15-24)
“As long as other countries don’t stick their noses in.” (Graphic Designer, Female, 35-44)
“At least not yet in the current climate it seems very unlikely. With such reluctance to hear the people democracy seems a distant ideal.” (Freelance Journalist, Female, 15-24)
“Over time, China’s people will want to have more of a say in how they are governed. There are already about 80,000 demonstrations in China each year and the government is making some interesting innovations at the local level, including introducing elections. The process is likely to be very closely managed and take a long time to complete.” (Academic, Male, 25-34)
“But not the Western liberal democracy. It will be a system to suit China’s demographics.” (PhD Student, Male, 25-34)
“Only military force and the memory of Tiananmen Square prevent it. That will collapse one day as all dictatorships eventually do.” (Reputation Analyst, Male, 55-64)
• A large majority of respondents (75%) agree with recent Chinese protesters that the Western media is overly negative about the rise of China.
“It is a shame that the Western media has failed to bridge better understanding between the two worlds and only incited hostility.” (Lecturer, Female, 35-44)
“China is suppressing the human rights of more people than any other country on Earth. It is a huge injustice that must be shouted about all the time.” (Project Manager, Male, 35-44)
“Partly because of the mindset of journalists here, partly because that it need to cater to the envy of general public here.” (Banker, Male, 35-44)
“If Chinese media was more open and honest, rather than hiding behind the facade of economic greatness, then western media wouldn’t have to compensate on covering the negative aspects of China.” (Designer, Female, 35-44)
• 66% of respondents think it’s possible for 1.3 billion Chinese to have the standard of living currently experienced in the Western world.
“I don’t think the planet can afford for ANY of us to have that in the long term - we’re too wasteful and destructive.” (Local Government Officer, Male, 55-64)
“Science will need to develop ways to provide more fuel and food (but I think we will meet that challenge).” (Project Manager, Male, 35-44)
“China has gained vast wealth and still has huge, untapped resources. Despite its size, there is no reason to believe that average productivity cannot reach, or even surpass current Western standards.” (Strategic consultant, Male, 45-54)
“People are creative and industrious. They are the solution not the problem.” (Senior Lecturer, Male, 35-44)
“Unlikely, and it should not go forward that way. Unless we find a form of energy that doesn’t harm the environment.” (Lecturer, Male, 45-54)
• Only 33% of respondents think it is the responsibility of the West to ensure China develops sustainably, with 67% arguing against.
“It isn’t the West’s responsibility in the general sense. We could leave them to it but we do have a moral duty.” (Freelance Journalist, Female, 24-35)
“Sustainability is just an excuse for the West to insinuate itself into China’s affairs.” (Writer, Female, 45-54)
“China is not a child - and they will not listen to us anyway.” (Chef, Male, 15-24)
“I think the West should deal with its own problems first. By dealing with other people’s problems, they [the West] are merely trying to ignore or cover up their own.” (Architecture Student, Male, 15-24)
• 71% of respondents don’t think that the rapid rise of China is a threat to world peace.
“As History has shown, China has never threatened world peace. The only challenge China has is to try to maintain peace within.” (Student, Female, 15-24)
“China seems to be a status quo power, for now at least.” (Writer, Male, 35-44)
Sample: 124 individuals were polled using an online survey in the period between 10.06.2008 – 07.08.2008.
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Barb Jungr, chansonniere