Anti-US sentiment has grown in many parts of the world over the past five years but attitudes towards China, the strongest challenger to US hegemony, have also worsened, according to a survey of global public opinion.
Favourable opinions of the US have fallen in 26 of 33 countries where people were questioned since 2002 and confidence in President George W. Bush has collapsed in most parts of the world.
But the Pew Global Attitudes Project found little enthusiasm for the rise of China as a counterweight to the US, with favourable opinions of the country having fallen over the past two years in nine of the 15 nations where comparable data existed.
Large majorities in many countries believe that China’s growing military power is a bad thing, while the people of many developed countries are increasingly worried about the economic impact of China’s rise, the 47-nation survey found.
Unfavourable views of the US were strongest in the Middle East, reflecting resentment about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and US foreign policy in the region. More than 80 per cent of Turks and Palestinians voiced a negative opinion of the US, with similar figures in several other Muslim countries.
Mr Bush announced plans on Wednesday to appoint a special envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a grouping of 57 mostly Muslim nations, in an attempt to improve relations between the US and the Islamic world. “Our special envoy will listen and learn from representatives from Muslim states and will share with them America’s views and values,” he said in a speech at the Islamic Centre of Washington.
The Pew survey found that support for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq was almost universal. There was also widespread opposition to the US and Nato operation in Afghanistan and the broader US war on terror.
In spite of his push to build bridges with the Muslim world, Mr Bush insisted there would be no retreat from the US fight against terrorism and extremism in the Middle East and he called on peaceful Muslims to support the cause. “We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists,” he said.
Mr Bush said the unpopularity of the US in the region stemmed from failed past policies. For decades, the free world abandoned Muslims in the Middle East to tyrants, terrorists and hopelessness. This was done in the interests of stability and peace, but instead the approach brought neither, he said. “The Middle East became an incubator for terrorism and despair, and the result was an increase in Muslims’ hostility to the west.”
The Pew survey found the US was the nation most often blamed for the world’s environmental problems, named as the biggest global threat by growing proportions of people in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Opinion about Russia was mixed but the reputation of President Vladimir Putin has declined sharply, to the extent that his approval rating rivals that of Mr Bush in many parts of the world.