Xi Jinping tops survey on 10 influential world leaders

Mr Xi being greeted by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad in September. Mr Xi's overseas travels have paid off as the survey shows he is rated better in countries he has visited.
Mr Xi being greeted by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad in September. Mr Xi's overseas travels have paid off as the survey shows he is rated better in countries he has visited.PHOTO: PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU OF INDIA

He gets highest approval rating in poll co-sponsored by top Harvard school

Chinese President Xi Jinping has topped a rare survey on 10 influential world leaders and their work performance, receiving the highest approval ratings from respondents in China and 29 other countries including Singapore.

In a survey co-sponsored by the Harvard University's prestigious Kennedy School of Government, Mr Xi garnered a 7.5 rating on a scale of 1 to 10 from global respondents, trailed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 7.3 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel with 7.2. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came last with a 6.0 and a 6.1 rating respectively, according to survey results released yesterday.

In the rating by respondents about their own leaders, Mr Xi came up tops with a 9.0 rating, followed by Mr Putin and Mr Modi at a joint second with an 8.7 rating. French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron took the last two spots.

Professor Anthony Saich, director of the Kennedy School's Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation, said a reason for the domestic approval ratings could be the different political systems the leaders operate in.

"On the whole, in multi-party systems or genuine two-party systems such as in Europe and the US, citizens are more critical of their national leaders and policies than is the case in those nations where politics is less contested," he wrote in an analysis.

But Singapore-based analyst Chen Gang of the East Asian Institute said Mr Xi is genuinely well-received among Chinese respondents thanks to his domestic policies such as the anti-corruption campaign and economic reforms. "I believe Xi's approval rating could be higher than that of his predecessors if a similar poll had been conducted," he added.

Observers said Mr Xi's strong overseas approval rating shows that most countries have a positive attitude towards China despite perceptions of it being a bully over territorial disputes with neighbours. "Since he became the top leader, Xi has rolled out policies that could reap tangible benefits to not just China but also the international community and neighbours," said Peking University analyst Wang Dong, citing the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as an example.

Another key factor could be Mr Xi's overseas travels since taking power in November 2012 as the survey shows he is rated better in countries he has visited, such as South Korea and Indonesia.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Xi fares poorly among Japanese citizens, a clear result of the disputes between the two countries over East China Sea islands and Japan's war-time actions in China.

The survey, conducted in recent months by Tokyo-based GMO Research firm, polled a total of some 26,500 citizens in 30 countries on their awareness of the 10 leaders and confidence in their ability to handle domestic and international issues. There were no details on the number of respondents in each country.

In Singapore, respondents rated Ms Merkel the best in handling international affairs, followed by US President Barack Obama and Mr Cameron. On handling domestic affairs, Singaporean respondents ranked Ms Merkel first while Mr Xi came in second and Mr Obama third.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg