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News release

Positive perceptions of foreign powers decline in South Africa; China viewed more favourably than U.S., Russia

23 Aug 2023 South Africa
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News release
Key findings
  • ▪ China’s economic and political influence on South Africa is viewed as positive by 37% of respondents, exceeding positive perceptions of the influence of the United States (32%) and Russia (25%) (Figure 1). o Positive perceptions of foreign influence declined between 2021 and 2022 – sharply so in the case of the United States (by 16 percentage points) and marginally for China (3 points) and Russia (5 points).
  • ▪ Negative perceptions of Russia’s influence almost match positive ones (22% vs. 25%). Negative assessments are higher for China (20%) than for the United States (15%) (Figure 2). o Large shares of the population say they “don’t know” enough to assess the economic and political influence of China (33%), the United States (40%), Russia (42%), and the EU (52%).
  • ▪ More than four in 10 South Africans (43%) say China’s economic activities have “a lot” of influence on the country’s economy, while about three in 10 (31%) say they “don’t know” enough to assess China’s economic influence (Figure 3).

After South Africans’ positive perceptions of foreign powers declined between 2021 and  2022, China’s influence is more widely seen as positive than that of the United States, a new Afrobarometer survey indicates.  

Trailing both China and the United States, Russia receives positive and negative  assessments of its influence in almost equal shares. 

Close to six in 10 citizens say China’s economic activities have “a lot” or “some”  influence on South Africa’s economy.  

Large minorities say they “don’t know” enough to assess the economic and political  influence of China, the United States and Russia. A majority say the same about the  influence of the European Union (EU).  

With the BRICS Summit 2023 in session, citizen perceptions about foreign influence hold  value for the political and economic dialogues taking place.