Filipinos' trust in China falls to 'bad' as US keeps 'good' rating

Filipinos’ trust in China sank to “bad” as it remained “good” for the United States in a recent survey by polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS), once again defying President Rodrigo Duterte’s preference for Beijing. 

The nationwide mobile phone survey, conducted from July 3 to 6, showed Filipinos’ trust in China fell from “poor” to “bad” with a net trust rating of -36. The latest figure was down by 9 points from its net trust rating of -27 in December 2019. 

Latest trust figures for China are the lowest since the “bad” net trusting rating of -37 seen in April 2016, a few months before Duterte assumed the presidency. 

The SWS said net trust in China has only been positive in 9 out of the 53 times it has surveyed this item since August 1994. Its record low net trust rating was a “bad” -46 in September 2015. 

Other findings from the survey showed trust ratings dip for the United States and Australia, though Filipinos’ trust in these countries remained in the positive range. 

The US fell from “very good” +67 in December 2019 to a “good” net trust rating of +42 in July 2020. 

Opposite China, the SWS said net trust in the US has been positive since it first surveyed it in December 1994. Out of 68 surveys, it ranged from moderate +18 in May 2005 to excellent +82 in December 2013.

The same trend was seen for middle power Australia, whose net trust rating fell from a “good” +33 in December 2019 to a “moderate” +27 in July 2020. 

The survey made use of mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing for 1,555 Filipinos aged 18 years old and above, with a sampling error margin of ±2% for national percentages.

In the background

The survey comes as the coronavirus pandemic – which began in China – ravages the world, while Beijing sustains its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. Since then, the US recently announced a tougher policy on the strategic waterway while Southeast Asian counties, including the Philippines, have carried louder opposition against China’s efforts to assert its claims. (READ: China rejects Philippines' call to comply with Hague ruling)

The survey also takes place amid months of increasingly cold ties between Washington and Beijing, which several experts view as a prelude to an impending “Cold War” between the two powers. 

The poll likewise comes after Duterte suspended an earlier decision to terminate the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, a key military pact seen as a deterrent to China in the maritime region. 

Despite consistently low trust ratings, however, Duterte has favored fostering close ties with China in exchange for economic benefits, as he distances himself from the US because he detests its supposed interference in his anti-drug campaign. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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