Is Xi Jinping the World’s Most Popular Leader?

Reporting on the findings of a recent study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center on the global perceptions of international leaders conducted in 30 countries, China Daily trumpets that Xi Jinping “was the highest rated leader in many fields”:

Xi topped both the domestic ratings that respondents gave to their own leaders and international scoring. Chinese respondents showed the highest confidence in regards to how their leader handled domestic and international affairs.

In terms of ratings of their own leaders in their respective countries, Xi was the highest rated leader with a nine out of 10 rating. Russia’s Putin followed with an 8.7 with India’s Modi and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma rounding out the top. When it came to how the 10 leaders are rated by people in other countries, Xi also fared the best, with Modi, Merkel and Zuma trailing.

[…] In regards to the confidence citizens have in how their own leaders handling of domestic and international affairs, President Xi topped the list in both categories at 94.8 percent and 93.8 percent respectively. In second on the list was Indian Prime Minister Modi with 93.2 percent and 93.3 percent respectively. Russian President Putin came in third with 86.2 percent and 86 percent.

President Xi was rated high in Asian and African countries except Japan on his handling of domestic affairs. More than 51 percent of respondents in the US said they approved of Xi’s handling of international affairs. Xi also rated well in the rest of the countries. [Source]

President Xi, whose spirited image crafting campaign and crackdown on Party corruption has done much to win him fans at home, recently published a collection of essays in ten different languages—a collection that appears to be a smash hit among CEOs of foreign social media companies eager to tap into the Chinese market.

At Bloomberg Businessweek, Dexter Roberts notes a caveat in the Harvard report that  missed which helps to explain some of Xi’s high ratings:

[…W]hile Xi’s high popularity is getting lots of attention in China’s party-controlled press, the possible reasons behind it are not. Leaders in countries that hold a high degree of state control over the media would naturally rate higher, the Harvard study says, a conclusion ignored by China Daily and other Chinese publications.

“Where the media tends to be dominated by the government, it is not surprising that the citizens of those countries claim to pay more attention to their own leaders,” writes the Ash Center’s director, Anthony Saich, noting that 93.9 percent of Chinese report paying attention to Xi, compared with just 74.4 percent of Americans with Obama. “In countries where the press is more open and critical, we see that leaders receive lower ratings from their citizens.”

“We see a clear correlation between political systems and the ratings of their own leaders by the respondents. In countries where discussion of leaders is more constrained, the national leaders rate very highly,” Saich adds, citing China and Russia as examples.

Xi, however, also did well in the international rankings, where people were asked to rate other country’s leaders, getting an average score of 7.5, the highest of any of the 10 heads of state. […] [Source]

December 19, 2014, 6:12 PM
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