Our new nightmare: the United States of America
By Tom Allard and Louise Williams
03/29/05 "SMH" - - Australians are as just as concerned about United
States foreign policy as Islamic extremism and regard the US as more
dangerous than a rising China, according to a new poll.
The Australians Speak: 2005 survey, commissioned by the Lowy
Institute for International Policy, found 57 per cent of Australians
were "very worried" or "fairly worried" about the external threat
posed by both US foreign policy and Islamic extremism.
"We asked about a series of threats from the outside," said the
institute's executive director, Allan Gyngell. "Most startling of
all was the precise equivalence of Islamic fundamentalism and US
foreign policy as a source of concern.
"The question is whether this is a response to a particular
administration or a broader cultural drifting apart."
More than two-thirds - 68 per cent - said Australia took too much
notice of the US in its foreign policy deliberations.
The findings would not be welcomed by the Howard Government, which
has railed against perceived anti-Americanism and emphasised the
importance of the alliance as the US takes a more unilateralist and
activist posture in world affairs.
The Lowy Institute found that 72 per cent regarded the US alliance
as very important or fairly important. But in another finding, the
survey of 1000 people found respondents were strongly opposed to
siding with the US over Taiwan should conflict flare between Taipei
Mr Gyngell said he was also very surprised that China rated so
positively. Only 35 per cent of respondents had concerns about
China's growing power.
"It's not that I thought Australians had a particularly bellicose
view on China, but people see opportunities in China, both
economically and strategically."
Taiwan is an issue of acute sensitivity at the moment, with tensions
escalating with the mainland after China's parliament rubber-stamped
a decree warning the province of dire consequences if it declares
independence. Asked if they had positive or negative feelings about
a list of 15 different countries, institutions and regions,
respondents rated the US only 11th, six percentage points ahead of
Indonesia, which has traditionally been viewed as a threat by many
Fifty-eight per cent of those surveyed viewed the US positively,
compared with 94 per cent for New Zealand, 86 per cent for Britain,
84 per cent for Japan, and 69 per cent for China.
Fifty-one per cent thought a free-trade agreement with China was a
good idea, compared with only 34 per cent for the US deal.
Unfriendly nations acquiring nuclear weapons and global warming were
considered more worrying than international terrorism.
Asked about Australian foreign policy goals, most support came
for "improving the global environment", with 75 per cent judging it
to be "very important".
Protecting jobs and strengthening the economy rated as high,
followed by combating terrorism and preventing nuclear
proliferation. Promoting democracy rated bottom.
The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.
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