Survey participants were perhaps more worried about China than last year, but also ranked the country the second most important country with which New Zealand needs to develop its relationship.
The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s survey of more than 1,100 people found that only 13% of respondents consider China a friend, a record for the poll.
Of those polled, 58% said they saw the country as a threat, a huge jump from 37% last year.
For the first time, the foundation questioned the level of confidence in the great powers; only 10% of respondents believed that China would act responsibly in the world.
Executive Director Simon Draper said a key question was whether this was a sustainable vision for China.
The poll was commissioned to supplement the 2021 data the foundation just released and was in response to events in Europe and recent media coverage of Beijing’s recent presence in the Pacific.
“When you ask New Zealanders, what is Asia?
“Australians say they are worried about China and say they need to diversify and find a plan B. What New Zealanders are saying is they are kind of worried about China , but so we need to understand it better.”
However, China was not the only major nation viewed negatively.
Russia was seen as a threatening country by 79%, an increase from 45% over last year, with just 3% viewing the country as friendly.
North Korea was seen as a threatening nation by 75% of respondents, up from 64% last year.
Despite the findings, there was still a sense of the importance of investing in China-New Zealand relations.
When asked which countries New Zealand should develop relations with, China ranked second because of trade and economic opportunities.
The survey also shows that New Zealanders are increasingly concerned about cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns from other countries.
The Asia-New Zealand Foundation survey found that 53% of respondents were very concerned about foreign cyberattacks and fake news.
This figure was slightly higher than climate change at 51%. The potential impacts of terrorism and violent extremism were the next concerns.
The Asia New Zealand Foundation has been conducting the survey for 25 years.