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(Australian Associated Press)
The fragile relationship with China has left its mark on Australians, with many believing there is a need to reduce the nation’s economic dependence on the Asian powerhouse.
A new survey has found as many as nine in 10 people (94 per cent) believe the Australian government should look for other markets to steer the country away from its reliance on its number one trading partner, China.
Trust in China has also dropped to just 23 per cent – less than half of what it was two years ago.
These were some of the key findings in the Lowy Institute’s 16th annual poll of Australian attitudes towards international issues released on Wednesday.
“Australians are sceptical of China, disappointed in the United States, and anxious about the economic downturn,” the institute said.
The poll of 2448 adult Australians was taken between March 16 and 29, before the escalation of friction with China over trade issues and the inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus.
Four out of five Australians also believe the government should sanction Chinese officials associated with human rights abuses.
However, when it comes to the way coronavirus has been handled, Australians rank China (31 per cent) above the US, at just 10 per cent.
That contrasts with the 93 per cent who back the way the Morrison government has tackled the pandemic.
Over three-quarters of respondents say the relationship with the US is important to Australia’s security, although less than a third have confidence in US President Donald Trump to do the right thing in world affairs.
Trust in neighbours like India and Indonesia were hardly overwhelming at 45 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.
Economic optimism is at a historic low in the Lowy poll, with almost three-quarters of people saying a severe downturn in the global economy poses a critical threat, while only 52 per cent now feel optimistic about Australia’s outlook compared with 65 per cent 12 months ago.
Just under three-quarters of respondents say drought and water shortages and the COVID-19 pose threats to Australia’s vital interests, and were the top-ranked threats for 2020.
Only 50 per cent of Australians feel safe – a record low.