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Russians Continue to Warm to China

Russians Continue to Warm to China

by Galina Zapryanova and Benedict Vigers

Story Highlights

  • Russians’ approval of China’s leadership reaches record-high 71% in 2023
  • Approval of China is high across all segments of Russian society
  • Approval of German, U.S. leadership remains low

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Russia’s war with Ukraine draws Moscow and Beijing ever closer, China is emerging as the victor in another battle -- the one for soft power over the West in the eyes of millions of Russians.

Approval of China’s leadership in Russia reached a record high of 71% in 2023, while approval of German and U.S. leadership sank to levels not seen in nearly a decade.


Realignment With China Didn’t Happen Overnight

Russians’ approval of China started climbing after Crimea was incorporated into Russia in 2014. But even at its highest point before the war in Ukraine started, approval never reached more than 56%.

The recent jump in Russian approval of China’s leadership also did not happen immediately after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Gallup data collected from August to October 2022 showed no notable trend changes in approval of China’s leadership, while ratings of the U.S. and Germany plummeted. A year later, however, the losses for Western countries appear to have become China’s gains.

The record-high approval in 2023 holds across all major demographic groups and regions, unlike in prior years when the demographic split was almost always more nuanced. For example, in most years, women had consistently lower approval ratings of China's leadership than men did.


Geographically, approval of China’s leadership is highest in Russia’s Far East region and lowest in the Northwest region, which includes the city of St. Petersburg.


China’s approval saw smaller year-to-year gains in the Northwest; these may be due to pockets of oppositional voices and cultural ties with Europe in the St. Petersburg area. The Gallup World Poll also found that residents of this region have the lowest comparative approval of their country’s leadership in 2023 (61%, versus an average of 69% in the rest of the country’s regions).

Approval of German, U.S. Leadership Remains Persistently Low After Steep Decline in 2022

Paralleling the shift in public opinion in favor of China, approval of U.S. leadership saw its first significant drop in 2014 in the aftermath of Crimea and the associated condemnation of Russian actions from the West, resulting in wide-ranging sanctions.


Russian views of U.S. leadership gradually recovered from their single-digit lows and reached a post-2014 peak of 18% in 2020, when perhaps the shared global experience of a major pandemic was top of mind among the population. These gains all but disappeared after the war with Ukraine started, and U.S. leadership approval now stands at just 6%.

In 2021, more than twice as many Russians approved of Germany’s leadership (37%) as that of the U.S. (16%). But after the invasion of Ukraine, the EU, NATO and the U.S. imposed widespread sanctions on Russia and stood united behind Ukraine. Russian public opinion shifted accordingly. Now, only one in 10 Russians have a positive view of Germany’s leadership.

Bottom Line

As the war in Ukraine grinds on toward the two-year mark, the conflict is likely affecting how ordinary Russians view the world and their country’s place in it. Approval of China’s leadership reached a record high in 2023. While Russia remains at odds with the West, its relationship with Beijing is ever more crucial in determining how it navigates sanctions and the next phase of a protracted conflict in Ukraine.

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For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.


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