Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has triggered global criticism.
  • Europeans are turning away from the United States under Trump's leadership, according to recent polling.
  • Public opinion towards America has declined in Europe since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • 76% of Germans say their view of America has deteriorated since the start of the crisis.
  • Germans now equally prioritise maintaining a close relationship with China over maintaining a close relationship with the US.
  • One poll last week found that just 2% of French people trust Trump to provide world leadership.
  • China is exerting growing political, diplomatic and financial power across Europe.
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President Donald Trump is presiding over the deterioration of the United States' position on the world stage as European countries increasingly look towards China as a future global leader.

This shift can be seen in a series of recent opinion polls which show European sentiment towards the United States in decline since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

New polling published in Germany this week found that an overwhelming majority of Germans now have a worse opinion of the United States following the pandemic.

The survey found that a total of 76% of Germans said their view of the US has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, compared to just 36% who said the same of China.

The polling also found that:

  • Germans now believe close relations with China are as important to their national interest as maintaining relations with the US.
  • 37% of Germans said it was more important to maintain close relations with the US, compared to 36% who said the same of China.
  • This is a big drop since last year when 50% of Germans said that maintaining US relations was the priority, compared to just 24% who said China.
  • Just 10% of Germans see the US as the country's most important global partner, down from 19% last year.

Separate polling conducted in the United Kingdom also shows a deterioration in Britain's view of the United States since the pandemic began.

Asked at the end of last month if Britain should forge a stronger relationship with Europe, or with the US, 35% of Brits told pollsters YouGov that Europe should be the priority compared to just 13% who said the US.

This is a net shift of 6 per cent towards Europe since November last year and comes despite Britain's exit from the European Union in January.

The shift comes amid global shock about recent interventions by President Trump on the coronavirus pandemic.

The president's comments about using disinfectant to treat coronavirus patients caused widespread disbelief and horror in many European countries.

"Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger," Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole wrote last month in response to Trump's comments.

"But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity."

Reports that Trump had attempted to buy exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine being developed in Germany, also triggered anger on the continent.

Trump's behaviour has highlighted already widespread negative feelings in Europe towards the president, with one survey last week finding that just 2% of French people now trust Trump to lead the world.

Europe is ignoring Trump's threats about China

This shift is also seen in the behaviour of European governments, which appear increasingly willing to ignore Trump's threats about forging closer ties with China.

A series of European countries are in the process of agreeing on deals with the Chinese state-owned telecoms company Huawei to develop their 5G networks, despite increasingly aggressive threats from the White House.

Boris Johnson, who Trump hung up on in a moment of "apoplectic" fury earlier this year, after the UK prime minister defied the president's threats on Huawei, is pushing ahead with plans to allow the company 5G development rights.

Several other European countries are also pushing ahead with similar deals despite threats from the Trump administration of a new trade war.

Beijing is also demonstrating an increasing ability to wield diplomatic pressure on Europe, even when it counters the wishes of Washington.

The European Union recently removed references to a Chinese campaign of "global disinformation" from an official report into propaganda spread by foreign powers, following diplomatic pressure from Beijing.

As Trump withdraws, China opens its coffers to the world

President Xi and Donald Trump
Europe's reluctance to criticise China may be due in part to the increasing economic dominance of Beijing.

A recent report by the investment bank GP Bullhound suggests that since the European tech markets re-opened, China has caught up with the US in terms of investment in European tech companies for the first time since 2018.

China's investment extends to critical scientific investment as well.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported this week that Huawei has invested £5 million into a new tech centre at Imperial College London.

The investment has triggered controversy due to the fact that scientists at Imperial have been central to advising the UK government's response to the coronavirus crisis.

What is clear is that with the global economy heading for a deep recession, European governments, public institutions and companies are increasingly turning towards China for support and investment.

And with public opinion towards the United States deteriorating in Europe, under Trump's leadership, China's resurgence could well come at America's cost.

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