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Survey: Russia and China the top concerns for most Germans

Kay-Alexander Scholz
November 4, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's trip to China is no ordinary visit, something that the German public is acutely aware of. But Russia remains the biggest concern, a new survey shows.

BG Demonstration gegen den Krieg in der Ukraine - BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 24: People holding banners gather during a protest held near Brandenburg gate against Russia's full-scale military intervention in Ukraine.
Only one in 10 Germans now believes Russia is a trustworthy partnerImage: picture alliance / AA

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought security policy to the forefront in Germany. Foreign relations, both political and economic, are under scrutiny. There is an increasing focus on the country's relationship with Beijing, partly because of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's visit to China.

Only 9% of Germans consider China a trustworthy partner, according to the latest Deutschlandtrend survey of voters in Germany, conducted by pollster Infratest-Dimap and released by public broadcaster ARD. Five years ago that figure was 36%, indicating that the German public's attitude toward China has cooled significantly in recent years.

It also means the German population currently views China with a similar level of suspicion as Russia (10%). Meanwhile, fears that Russia could invade more European countries have decreased compared with when the war began, but it remains high at 61%.

When it came to being classified by the respondents as a "global threat factor," however, Russia scores much worse – with 86%, versus 63% for China.

Why Germany can't make up its mind about China

Where to now with China?

What does that mean for the future of trade relations? After all, China has been Germany's most important trading partner for the past six years. The representatively selected 1,307 respondents in the "Deutschlandtrend" survey did not take a clear stance on this. Almost nine out of ten are calling on the German government to make their country less economically dependent on non-democratic countries in general. Also, only one in five people considered economic interests to be more important than a commitment to human rights when dealing with China.

But there was no unity on the question of future economic cooperation with China: Half the respondents were in favor of reducing the scope of cooperation, while the other half favored continuing relations at the current level or even expanding them.

In contrast, there is clear opposition to Chinese investments in infrastructure in Germany. Almost seven out of 10 respondents (69%) disapproved of the 24.9% stake taken by the Chinese state shipping company Cosco in one of the four container terminals in Hamburg's port, recently approved by the German government. Political party preferences played no role in this response, the pollsters say.

More diplomacy, fewer weapons

The war in Ukraine continues to be the number one foreign policy issue in Germany. Of the warring parties, the Germans view Ukraine much more favorably than Russia. For example, almost one in two (47%) of respondents viewed Ukraine as a trustworthy partner for Germany – compared to only one in 10 for the Russian Federation.

However, that difference has narrowed slightly compared with an earlier survey in March, which showed 63% trusting Ukraine and only 6% for Russia.

There is still disagreement in the country – the last survey on this took place in August – regarding Germany's military and economic response to the Russian invasion. Four out of 10 respondents considered the current level of support in terms of weapons deliveries to Ukraine was appropriate. About one in five, on the other hand, thought it was not enough and 30% thought it was too much.

Some 31% of respondents were satisfied with the extent of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia, while 37% thought they did not go far enough, and 23% said they were too far-reaching. These opinions have barely changed compared to October.

It is a different story when it comes to the question of Germany's diplomatic efforts: More than half say they do not go far enough. That is 14 percentage points more than in June.

Infografik DT Deutschland Trend Sonntagsfrage EN

Opposition leads the polls

The opposition conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) remains ahead in the polls with 28% of the potential vote – the same as the previous month. The Greens are currently on 19%, also unchanged from the previous survey. The Social Democrats (SPD), the party of Chancellor Scholz, have risen 2 percentage points to equal their coalition partners, the Greens. Slightly down in the polls are the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) with 14% and the third governing coalition partner, the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) with 6%. The struggling socialist Left party remains at 5%.