By Harvey Morris, NY Times, May 12, 2012
LONDON—Surprise, surprise! The international standing of European nations has declined in the past year, according to a survey published this week, and Germany is no longer the state most admired by the rest of the world.
In a survey of more than 24,000 people in 22 countries around the world, the opinion research organization GlobeScan found that positive views of European states fell sharply over the past year as their leaders struggled to find solutions to the continent’s chronic economic crisis.
The standing of the 27-nation European Union as a whole fared even worse, with an 8 percent fall since last year.
Nations such as Germany and Britain are still in positive territory among the top five but China is coming up from behind in the admiration stakes, while Japan squeezed into first place with a positive rating of 58 percent.
Positive views of China rose from 46 to 50 percent, putting it at fifth place in the league table of states that others most look up to.
"The turmoil in the EU, long seen as an attractive bastion of political and economic stability, has raised doubts in people’s minds about its continued ability to be a global leader. Hopes are turning to China," said Chris Coulter, GlobeScan’s president.
His organization conducted the survey jointly with University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes on behalf of the BBC World Service.
China received a boost, notably among respondents in Europe, because of its economy, products, and services. What held it down was a negative perception of its foreign policy and how it treats its people.
Perceptions of a nation’s influence should not, of course, be confused with the real thing.
Down at eighth place and with a positive rating of just 47 percent, the United States still lags behind even the European Union. Significantly more respondents disapproved rather than approved of U.S. foreign policy.
The findings raise the question of how much states are likely to be influenced by where they stand in the global beauty contest. It is hard to see Iran making much effort to switch course just in order to drag itself from the bottom of the table.
World powers invariably follow Nicollo Machiavelli’s dictum that it is better to be feared than to be loved, if you can’t be both.
In an interview I once had with Silvan Shalom, then Israeli foreign minister, the conversation drifted towards his well-known expertise about the English soccer leagues. I asked him if he knew the slogan of my local London team, Millwall, whose fans are known for their aggressive misanthropy.
He didn’t, so I enlightened him. “It’s: ‘No one likes us, we don’t care’,” I said, adding that I had always felt it would be a good motto for Israel.
He seemed rather pleased with the idea.