SINGAPORE, 5 December 2017 - Every December, the editors of The Straits Times recognise an Asian or Asians who have made a significant impact to their societies and/or the wider region over the past 12 months.
This year’s Asian of the Year award goes to President Xi Jinping of China, for having been a crucial source of stability at a time of great uncertainty for the region and the world.
“Few Asian leaders have placed such a stamp on the nation, neighbourhood or beyond, as Mr Xi has done this year,” The Straits Times editors said in a citation unanimously endorsing their choice of Mr Xi, 64.
They noted that in a year of disruption and change, marked by a major changing of the guard in the United States presidency, China’s President - as principal custodian of the world’s second largest economy - has been a picture of calm and sobriety, and articulated a vision beyond his nation of 1.3 billion people to encompass Asia and the wider world.
President Xi, the editors added, demonstrated this leadership throughout the year - from his stout defence of free trade and endorsement of efforts to combat climate change, to articulating a vision for a connected world in hosting the inaugural Belt and Road Summit. He also succeeded in consolidating and enhancing his power at the 19th Party Congress. China also declared its intentions to work with Asean towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and brokered an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the Rohingya issue.
“If he succeeds in achieving half of what he speaks about, Asia, and the world, will be transformed, and for the better. The China Dream could well be an Asia Dream,” the editors said.
“The editors of The Straits Times, in selecting Mr Xi for this award, do so with the hope that he will be able to draw on the wisdom of China’s rich civilization and long history to present the world with a China that while pursuing its self-interest, does so with patience, empathy, generosity and above all, respect for the rule of law and fair play in international relations."
"It is this that has prevented major conflicts since the end of World War II. On the contrary, a mercantilist, aggressive, self-centred China, would not only do injury to the rich tapestry of its heritage, but possibly, hold back its future promise of Asia, and the wider world,” they added.
The editors said the award “is as much a recognition of the distance covered by Mr Xi thus far, as also the promise of taller peaks that remain to be ascended.”
Mr Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times and Singapore Press Holdings' English, Malay, Tamil Media Group, who chaired a panel that deliberated on the award, said: "President Xi has stood out this year for the impact he has made both at home and abroad. At a time of great disruption in the world, he has projected good sense and calm. He has helped steer the world forwards in its push for globalisation and trade, as well as supporting efforts to tackle climate change and foster closer regional ties in Asia."
This is the second time Mr Xi is being recognised. In 2013, he shared the award with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan - both were acknowledged for making their mark as relatively new leaders of their countries and for the promise they held out to the rest of Asia.
The inaugural award, in 2012, went to President Thein Sein of Myanmar. The 2014 award went to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and the 2015 award was given posthumously to Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Last year, the Asian of the Year award was awarded to a group of technological and business leaders whose path-breaking initiatives have unleashed major changes in communities around Asia and the world. Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling of Grab, Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal of Flipkart, Nadiem Makarim of Go-Jek, Tan Min-Liang of Razer and Pony Ma of Tencent, collectively called The Disruptors, shared the award.
This year, The Straits Times editors have also decided to pay special tribute for his lifetime achievement in fostering good relations all around Asia and the world to veteran Singapore diplomat Tommy Koh, who turned 80 last month (November) and was a stout defender of a rules-based global order. He has also championed the arts, the environment, and civic engagement in his long career in public service. A star guest columnist with The Straits Times, Prof Koh has also used the platform to share his wisdom on a wide range of subjects.
The editors said Professor Koh deserves special mention “for the way he has brought the best of humanity to his country, even as he took the best of Singapore to the world.”
“He has stood up for a rules-based order in a chaotic world. He displayed a tireless readiness to work toward compromise in the most difficult diplomatic situations, able to make his points unambiguously without leaving lasting wounds. This has won him both admiration and respect from his friends and adversaries around the world,” they added.
“Prof Koh has never been short of accolades, both at home and abroad. But on the occasion of his 80th birthday, the editors of The Straits Times think it is befitting to pay special tribute to him for his outstanding lifetime contributions to Singapore, Asia and the world,” the editors said.
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About The Straits Times
The Straits Times, the English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is the most-read newspaper in Singapore and is followed widely in the region for its comprehensive coverage of local, regional and world news, provided by its correspondents in 20 bureaus in major cities worldwide.
Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times underwent a major redesign across all platforms in July 2015, when it celebrated its 170th anniversary. This revamp is part of its continuing efforts to refresh its products, maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing readers with news as it happens on all platforms, from its website at www.straitstimes.com, Apple and Android apps to social media.
The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and Wan-Ifra. In 2017, it was conferred the silver award for best news mobile service and the bronze award for best use of online video by the World Association of Newspaper at the Digital Media Asia Awards.