MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos are the most troubled by the territorial disputes with China in the Asia-Pacific region, yet a little more than half of them still express favorable views of China, the results of a regional poll showed.
According to the 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center, 9 in 10 or 91% of Filipinos expressed the most concern about territorial conflicts in the region, with the Vietnamese and Japanese following behind at 83%.
China enjoys a positive opinion from majority of people in the Asia-Pacific region, with the exception of Vietnam and Japan, which had the most negative views among those surveyed.
Only 19% of Vietnamese voiced a favorable opinion of China, and a low 9% of Japanese.
But in the Philippines, despite expressing concern over territorial conflicts, a little more than half, or 54%, of Filipinos have favorable views toward China.
The Pew Research Center also noted that public views of China have improved in the past year in the Philippines, an increase of 16 points.
The survey also showed that younger Filipinos have confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that 59% of Filipinos aged 18 to 29 are among the strongest supporters of the Chinese leader in the region.
This comes as the Philippines faces China in an international tribunal over claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In July, the Philippines presented its arguments in its historic case against China at The Hague. (READ: EXPLAINER: Philippines' 5 arguments vs China)
China, however, refuses to join the proceedings, instead pushing for bilateral talks with the countries involved.
Favorable view of Japan
The Pew Research survey also reflected Filipinos’ favorable opinion toward a former wartime enemy: Japan.
The Philippines is among the top 3 countries with a favorable view of Japan, which enjoys a positive image in the region except in China and South Korea.
The survey results showed that 81% of Filipinos view Japan in a positive light, just behind Vietnam (82%) and Malaysia (84%).
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also enjoys support from Filipinos, with 68% saying they believe Abe will do the right thing regarding world affairs.
Earlier this year, the Philippines and Japan – former World War II enemies – began historic joint training exercises, the first time for the two countries to fly together.
But in China and Korea, the anti-Japan sentiment is still reflected. Only 12% of Chinese and 25% of South Koreans have favorable views toward Japan, owing to territorial conflicts in the region and years of historical animosities.
A 2013 Pew Research survey showed that the Chinese and South Korean believe that Japan has not apologized enough for its actions during World War II.
Confidence in leaders
"Overall, despite historical and territorial frictions, Asia-Pacific publics tend to view their regional neighbors in a positive light, with Japan judged most favorably,“ the Pew Research Center said.
Japan enjoys 71% of favorable views, followed by 57% approving of China, 51% for India, and 47% for South Korea.
But the views are more mixed when it came to assessing each other's leaders.
None of the leaders garnered majority confidence in the survey: 47% expressed confidence that Xi will do the right thing regarding world affairs; 43% said the same of Abe; while 39% have the same sentiment towards Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pew Research Center attributed these figures to the respondents' "lack of familiarity" with the leaders and the prominence of their public profiles.
The survey was conducted among 15,313 respondents in 10 Asia-Pacific nations and the US from April 6 to May 27, 2015. – Rappler.com