In January 2018, Gallup released its Rating World Leaders report, which showed a sharp decline in global opinion of American leadership under President Donald Trump. Overall, opinion dropped from 48% in 2016 (the final year of President Barack Obama’s presidency) to 30% in 2017 (the first year of Trump’s presidency). While the numbers for the United States are worrying, what should worry observers even more is that these numbers seem to clarify the ongoing narrative of the United States is ceding its role as leader of the world to China—though China just edged out the U.S. with a 31% global approval. Seemingly positive stories like this one do wonders for China in the global press, but observers at all levels should think twice before naming President Xi Jinping of China as the next leader of globalization.
By hosting high-profile boondoggles like the “Communist Party of China (CCP) in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting in Beijing” and consistently using anodyne phrases like the concept of “community with shared future for mankind,” it appears that China—and Xi in particular—is going on a full-fledged charm offensive to win over doubters and to solidify relationships with partners and friends. Since Donald Trump is pushing the U.S. inward with his “America First” mantra, countries—and the media—are looking to see who will step up to fill the vacuum, and judging by the number of articles articulating such sentiments, signs point to Xi becoming this figure.