President Xi Jinping may be getting the full red carpet treatment when he visits the UK on 20 October but the Chinese premier still has a lot of convincing to do when it comes to the British public. That is because UK voters see his one-party state in a negative light, preferring smaller countries such as Australia and Japan.
The findings are from a poll by YouGov, which found most people (55%) had a negative outlook on China, whereas only 22% of respondents said they saw the East Asian state in a positive light. The survey, of more than 1,500 people between 15 and 16 October, also found Saudi Arabia (78% negative) and Russia (77% negative) were unpopular.
But Australia (84% positive) and Japan (67% positive) were much more popular among the British public. The research also revealed Britons expect China to overtake Europe as our most valuable trading partner in 20 years.
"Currently 40% of people say our most valuable trading partner is Europe, while China comes in with 23% – but this is expected to reverse in the next two decades, with 29% predicting China will be our top partner and 22% predicting it will still be Europe," the YouGov report said.
'A golden era'
The data comes as Chancellor George Osborne attempts to forge closer ties with the communist government of China. The top Tory even visited Shanghai Stock Exchange in September after the markets dramatically fell. Osborne declared he wanted to start a "golden era" with China.
"Let's stick together and create a golden decade for both of our countries. Britain and China: we'll stick together," he said. "The mutual benefits of connecting our markets are clear – increased access to international capital for Chinese firms, unparalleled investment opportunities for Chinese and international investors, enhanced stability for both markets and efficient allocation of resources – acting as the basis for sustainable economic growth."
The YouGov survey also comes as Jeremy Corbyn plans to raise China's human rights record with Xi during a private meeting. The Labour leader intends to make the move despite warnings from the Chinese ambassador to the UK that his leader does not intend to talk about the issue.
You think the Labour Party will raise this issue at a state banquet? I don't think so," Liu Xiaoming told the BBC's Andrew Marr show. "The president is here for cooperation, for partnership – he's not here for debate about human rights."
But Corbyn's camp told IBTimes UK that the veteran campaigner would not be backing down. A spokesman said: "It was never going to be in the banquet and was always going to be in a private meeting. That's still the case."