Survey Findings: Perceptions of PRC amid Covid-19 pandemic

A significant majority of Indians believe that the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) opacity and mismanagement of the outbreak of Covid-19 is to blame for the global pandemic. Despite that, Indians continue to have a nuanced view of the bilateral relationship, with a majority believing that while competition persists, there are shared interests that both sides should pursue. 

These are among the key findings of an online survey that I conducted from a period of March 26, 2020, till April 3, 2020. During that time, responses were invited via email and by sharing the questionnaire on different social media platforms. Respondents were required to log in with an email id to submit their answers. They were also requested to state their nationality. Out of the 1299 respondents, 1184 provided information about their nationality. Among these, 1156 are Indian nationals.

The survey contained five multiple-choice questions, with respondents being asked to choose one option per question. This was done to assess their dominant perception. The key findings from the survey are outlined below.

1. PRC’s Responsibility: An overwhelming majority of respondents, around 67%, believe that the PRC is to blame for the outbreak becoming a global pandemic. A breakdown of this figure shows that 18.2% believe that the pandemic is an outcome of PRC’s biowarfare. This, in particular, is indicative of not just public anger but also the effectiveness of online disinformation campaigns. In comparison, only 14.5% believe other governments are at fault for their lack of preparedness.

Responses to the question about the use of terms like “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus” and “Made in China pandemic” also underscore public anger.

2. Mistrust of PRC’s Global Role: For the past few weeks, Chinese diplomats and media have been pushing the narrative of the PRC’s success in containing the outbreak and its emergence as a leading global public health goods provider. Responses to the survey show that this narrative has not been very effective.

Just over 65% of the respondents view the PRCs response to the outbreak as draconian and opaque, with its data being intentionally falsified. Around 35% have a somewhat positive view of the PRC’s efforts, with only 3.1% agreeing that it has provided a model for other countries.

Meanwhile, on the question of PRC providing support to other countries, a majority of the respondents – 56.4% – viewed this from the prism of power politics. Despite this, nearly 19% believe that China is not doing enough to assist other states in dealing with the pandemic. Beijing clearly faces a Catch-22, and it appears that its effort to spin a positive narrative is having little impact.

3. Competition & Cooperation: Despite the above, a majority of the respondents had a nuanced view of the Sino-Indian bilateral relationship. The dominant primary view of over 47% of the respondents is that while there is competition, both sides also have shared interests. On the other hand, 46.4% of the respondents either view China as a fundamental threat to India (33%) or want a decoupling of the two economies (13.4%).

Note: If you would like to use the data from the survey or report on its findings, please cite Manoj Kewalramani, Fellow-China Studies at The Takshashila Institution. For any other queries, please contact us.