Only 23% of Australians trust China to act responsibly: Poll

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SYDNEY: Trust in China among Australians has more than halved amid diplomatic and trade disputes, with only 23 per cent saying they trusted Beijing to act responsibly in the world compared with a 52 per cent reading two years ago, a major poll has found.

The annual Lowy Institute Poll also found rising support for Australia's security alliance with the US, up six points to 78 per cent this year, even though US President Donald Trump was unpopular with Australians.

"Trust in our largest trading partner - China - has declined precipitously. Confidence in China's leader Xi Jinping, has fallen even further," wrote Lowy Institute executive director Michael Fullilove.

An overwhelming 94 per cent of respondents thought Australia should work to reduce its economic reliance on China by diversifying its trade.

China accounts for around a quarter of all Australian trade, according to official statistics - with Australian minerals helping build China's heavy industry and fuel power generation.

Amid the pandemic, Australians were less trusting of most countries, and only half of Australians said they felt safe.

Diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Canberra have worsened since Australia called for an international inquiry into the source and spread of the coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

China has banned some Australian beef imports and imposed tariffs on Australian barley. It has also urged Chinese students and tourists to avoid Australia.

While Australians believed the US alliance was important for Australia's security, Dr Fullilove said "trust in the US has stagnated, and few Australians have confidence in President Trump".

Fifty-one per cent of respondents trusted the US to act responsibly in the world, steady with last year and down from 61 per cent in 2017.

The survey found 55 per cent rated Australia's relationship with the US as more important than the relationship with China, compared to 40 per cent who chose China.

The poll has been conducted since 2005 and this year surveyed 2,448 adults across Australia. - REUTERS, AFP