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Chinese President Xi Jinping tops survey on 10 popular world leaders

Chinese President Xi Jinping is being greeted by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad in September. Photo: Press Information Bureau of India

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

In the survey co-sponsored by the Harvard University's prestigious Kennedy School of Government, President Xi garnered a 7.5 rating on a scale of 1 to 10 from some 26,000 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 the survey results released on Wednesday.

The survey results showed President Xi is highly thought of in much of Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe but also well regarded in most of the 30 countries in the survey, with the notable exception of Japan, which gave him a rating of just 3.8.

"Chinese President Xi Jinping was the highest-rated world leader in many fields," China Daily reported on Wednesday, commenting on the survey, which was published by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School and carried out by Japanese research firm GMO. "Chinese respondents showed the highest confidence in regards to how their leader handled domestic and international affairs."

In the rating by respondents about their own leaders, President Xi came up tops with a 9.0 rating, followed by Russian President Putin and Indian Prime Minister 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.

"Chinese respondents showed the highest confidence in regards to how their leader handled domestic and international affairs," said China Daily

At home, President Xi enjoys the highest level of confidence at around 94 percent in his handling of domestic and international affairs. In second place was Indian Prime Minister Modi at around 93 percent, while Russian President Putin came in third at almost 86 percent.

But when ranked by foreigners in that category, President Xi ranked second, following German Chancellor Merkel.

President Xi came 4th in a list of leaders that people rated most significant, with US President Obama, Russian President Putin and British Prime Minister Cameron taking the top three places.

Professor Anthony Saich, director of the Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, said that 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 President 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 President Xi's strong overseas approval rating shows that most countries have a positive attitude towards China. "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 neighbors," said Peking University analyst Wang Dong, citing the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as an example.

Another key factor could be President 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, President 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.

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