BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping is failing to make much of an impression on people around the world concerned about China's human rights, but on balance the country is seen favourably, especially in economic terms, a report said on Monday.
China has invested billions of dollars to project its soft power, through English-language media and the promotion of its national language around the world, but the research suggests that Beijing has its work cut out trying to convince the world of its intentions.
While more than 90 percent of Chinese had confidence in Xi, who assumed the reins of state power last year, that dropped to just 28 percent in the United States and just six percent in Japan, the Pew Research Center said.
"Xi ... so far has failed to make a strong positive impression on global publics. Overall, ratings for Xi are more negative than positive, while at the same time many are unfamiliar with the Chinese leader," it said.
Xi has overseen a sweeping crackdown on corruption, but has also ramped up pressure on dissidents and other activists.
More broadly, global impressions of China were on balance more favourable than unfavourable, with the country's economic growth generally seen as a good thing in most countries surveyed, the Washington-based group said.
"As China's economy has continued to grow over the past several years, it has developed extensive economic ties with nations around the world, generating both goodwill and anxieties about economic competition," it said.
"Overall, the publics surveyed tend to say China's progress is good for their own country as well."
In the United States though, where in 2011 half the respondents gave China a positive rating, only 35 percent held that view now, Pew said. In Europe, the only country which generally viewed China more favourably than not was Britain.
More than eight in 10 Germans, a country China has gone to great efforts to court in recent years, thought China did not respect personal freedoms, the poll found.
Still, more respondents than not believed that China would replace, or had already replaced, the United States as the world's top superpower, with feeling strongest on this in the seven European countries surveyed.
Pew describes itself as a "nonpartisan fact tank" that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)