Who was the world’s most powerful leader in 2015? The answer is Chinese president Xi Jinping, according to, apparently, the people of Pakistan.
This week, Chinese state media has widely reported that Xi was declared the “statesman of the year” for 2015, by the the Pakistan Observer, a popular English-language newspaper. The newspaper sang Xi’s praises in a 100-page, full color report, which explains on its front cover that Xi is the “General Secretary, Communist Party; President, People’s Republic of China; Chairman, Central Military Commission…and much more.”
The result was based on a nationwide survey, with 84% of respondents voting for Xi, whom the report described as the “world’s most powerful leader.” (The full text of the report is not available online.) It is unclear who the other candidates were. Xi is “one of the towering leaders in the 5000 years old history of China,” Pakistan Observer editor-in-chief Zahid Malik said.
“President Xi is an outstanding statesman with foresight and sagacity,” said former Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz at a press event for the report. “He brings new concepts and ideas for the development of China and the world.”
Xi’s popularity in Pakistan is perhaps unsurprising given the significant cooperation between the two nations. Pakistan is the biggest buyer of China’s arms exports, thanks to their common rival India. And China plays a dominant role in Pakistan’s economy. Last year Xi signed a $46 billion deal in Islamabad to pave the way for Chinese companies to build much-needed infrastructure in the nation.
That includes development along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connects Pakistan’s Gwadar port to China’s far-west Xinjiang region and fits nicely into Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” program—a land-and-sea version of the fabled Silk Road trading route.
The close ties between the two nations prompted a Pakistani province to launch Mandarin courses in its schools about five years ago. The first attempts appear to have failed for unspecified technical reasons, but the province is determined to keep trying. As the province’s education minister said, “Our trade, educational, and other relations are growing with China every day.”
And so, apparently, is the high regard in which Pakistanis hold Xi.