November 8, 2019


Many studies have explored the importance of public opinion in British foreign policy decision-making, especially when it comes to the UK's relations with the United States and the European Union. Despite its importance, there is a dearth of research on public opinion about British foreign policy towards other major players in the international system, such as emerging powers like China. We have addressed this knowledge gap by conducting a public opinion survey in the UK after the Brexit referendum. Our research findings indicate that the British public at large finds China's rise disconcerting, but is also pragmatic in its understanding of how the ensuing bilateral relations should be managed. More importantly, our results show that views on China are clearly split between the two opposing Brexit identities. Those who subscribe strongly to the Leave identity, measured by their aversion to the EU and antipathy towards immigration, are also more likely to hold negative perceptions of Chinese global leadership and be more suspicious of China as a military threat. In contrast, those who espouse a Remain identity—that is, believe that Britain would be better served within the EU and with more immigrants—are more likely to prefer closer engagement with China and to have a more positive outlook overall on China's place within the global community.

International Affairs, Volume 95, Issue 6, November 2019, Pages 1369–1387.


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Enze Han

Dr. Enze HAN is Associate Professor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration.  His research interests include ethnic politics in China, China's relations with Southeast Asia, especially with Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, and the politics of state formation in the borderland area between China, Myanmar and Thailand. Dr. Han received a Ph.D in Political Science from the George Washington University in the United States in 2010. Afterwards he was a postdoctoral research fellow in the China and the World Program at Princeton University. During 2015-2016, he was a Friends Founders' Circle Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, USA. In 2017, he was a fellow at the East Asia Institute in Seoul, South Korea. His research has been supported by the Leverhulme Research Fellowship, and British Council/Newton Fund. Prior to Hong Kong, Dr. HAN was Senior Lecturer in the International Security of East Asia at SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom.

Xiaojun Li

Xiaojun (pronounced “shee·ow ji·win”) received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University and joined the department in 2013 as an assistant professor. He has also held visiting positions at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (2014-2015), Fudan Development Institute (2016), and University of Hawaii’s East-West Center (2018).

His previous and ongoing research on international and comparative political economy can be broadly divided into three research programs that investigate (1) the impact of domestic politics on the process and content of foreign economic and security policies, (2) the impact of global supply chains on trade and investment, and (3) the political economy of trade liberalization in developing and post-communist countries. In all of these research programs, he uses China as the primary case of inquiry and employs a variety of methods, including interviews, archival research, historical institutional analysis, survey research, web-scraping, and large-N analysis.