Survey: Middle-aged residents of Estonia more positively minded about China than others

  • 2023-09-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - A survey by the University of Tartu Asia Center, which looked at the attitudes towards China among residents of Estonia, found that Russian-speaking and middle-aged people have the most positive attitudes towards China, associating that country primarily with economic success, while young people have a more negative attitude and it can be assumed that this image will become even more pronounced among Estonian residents over time.

Urmas Hobepappel, the organizer of the study, described it as the first ever systematic and broad-based exploration of Estonians' attitudes towards China. The respondents' age, mother tongue, place of residence and income were taken into account.

"The main finding is that the attitude of Estonian residents towards China is relatively positive: half of the respondents take a positive view on China, although Xi Jinping's role in the world is seen rather negatively," Hobepappel said.

This is in stark contrast to other countries of the West, where the image of both China and Xi Jinping in society is significantly worse. According to Hobepappel, this indicates the continued success of the economic success narrative that got its start in the 1990s and mostly views China in terms of  manufacturing, economy and technology. This is why 58 percent of Estonian residents think it is reasonable for Estonia to continue economic cooperation with China. Scientific and cultural cooperation are also considered important.

China's cooperation with Russia, Beijing's non-democratic government system and matters related to COVID-19 attract wider condemnation among residents of Estonia. Negative attitudes are most prevalent among 15 to 24-year-olds, who associate China with the economy, human rights, and an authoritarian regime. Considering that China's image among young people is poor and the geopolitical atmosphere is critical of China, it can be assumed that over time this positive image will become more negative among Estonian residents.

The results of the study can be taken into account when making short-term and long-term decisions on the economy, security, education and culture. They provide food for thought on how to respond to China's influence operations, plan educational and cultural policies related to China, and increase the economic benefits for Estonian society.

The findings of the study will be presented on Tuesday in the conference hall of the Riigikogu, at a meeting chaired by the head of the foreign affairs committee Marko Mihkelson. The presentation can also be watched online, and a recording of it will remain available on the Riigikogu's YouTube channel.