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Germany

Time Germany Learned to Love Itself

It's been stuck in self-loathing for as long as anyone can remember, but apparently, Germany isn't half as disliked as it believes. In fact, it has one of the best images in the world.

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Here's to Germany's new image

The latest Pew Global Attitudes survey of some 17,000 people in the United States and 15 other countries from April 20 to May 31 found that Germany, France, Japan and China are far more popular than the US.

While 43 percent of Germans are laboring under the impression that their country is despised by all and sundry, the report shows that most of those questioned actually had an extremely favorable opinion of Germany -- especially the French (89 percent), the Dutch (88 percent), the Lebanese (85 percent) and the Russians (79 percent).

Even in Britain, where Europe's largest economy is broadly portrayed by the press as a nation of beer-swilling former Nazis, 75 percent of respondents said they were well-disposed to Germany.

A global pariah

Proteste in Pakistan

It seems that the country everyone really loves to hate is the US. Anti-American sentiment is firmly entrenched around the world, mainly because of President George W. Bush and his policies, to such a degree that even US humanitarian efforts do little to curb it, according to the poll released Thursday.

Negative attitudes about the United States are so strong, even among traditional allies such as the French and Canadians, that US aid to tsunami victims or Bush's encouragement of democracy in the Middle East have done little to blunt them.

The report cited the re-election of Bush in November and the continuing war in Iraq -- one of his major policy priorities -- as the principal causes of the lingering anti-US feeling.

"The United States has a huge challenge at this point," said former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, co-chair of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Steady decline

This year's results confirm the decline in the US image worldwide revealed in previous polls taken annually since 2002, most notably in western European and Muslim countries.

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The United States received a 50-percent or better favorable rating from respondents in only six of the 16 countries surveyed. In contrast, Germany, France, and Japan received it from 13 countries, and China from 11.

Attitudes towards the United States were most positive in India, with 71 percent, and least positive in Jordan, with 21 percent.

The notable exceptions were in Indonesia, where the number of people reporting a favorable image of the United States more than doubled from 15 percent to 38 percent in the wake of a massive US-led relief effort for tsunami victims late last year, and in Jordan, where only five percent gave the United States a good mark last year.

In China, which was included in the poll this year for the first time, 42 percent had a favorable opinion of the United States, nearly the same percentage as in France (43 percent), Germany (41 percent) and Spain (41 percent).

Germany and the question of pride

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder might well feel vindicated. Although his refusal to back the US-led on Iraq was dismissed by many as electioneering back in 2002, others welcomed his decision as a sign of Germany's re-emerging self-confidence on the world's stage -- reflected in its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Deutsche Flagge und Reichstagskuppel

And although the country is battling a floundering economy and widespread fiscal gloom, recent years have seen a slow psychological shift away from the Germany's post-war shame, with younger generations embracing a new sense of national pride in a country that dares defy Washington.

The Pew survey shows that Germany is gradually stepping out of the shadows of the world's wings -- if only it would forget its current woes and realize it itself.

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