Photogapher: Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images

Power Trips: Which Asian Leader Racked Up the Most Flights in 2015?

India's Narendra Modi and Japan's Shinzo Abe were neck and neck as the most traveled leaders of Asian countries in 2015, each notching up visits to 23 countries — more than twice the number visited by U.S. President Barack Obama.

In a year that saw President Xi Jinping spend 42 days outside China, these well-traveled leaders crisscrossed the globe, competing to anchor their countries as an increasingly multi-polar world replaces the U.S.-dominated global order that came into place after the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold war.

"India didn’t really have a foreign policy until Modi arrived,” said Kilbinder Dosanjh, director for Asia at the Eurasia Group. Modi's visits on one hand sought investment and on the other projected India's growing power as the region's fastest growing major economy. 

For Xi, 2015 was a year of “big country diplomacy,” the new international order and promoting what China's foreign ministry loves to call “win-win” outcomes.

Xi's visits were sometimes hit and miss. After a state visit to the U.S. overshadowed by Pope Francis, he scored a hit in the U.K. with a ride down Pall Mall with the Queen in a state carriage. More recently in Paris, representing his country in the most important climate talks of the era, he missed a public relations opportunity when he failed to turn up at the Bataclan concert hall to pay tribute to the victims of last month's terrorist attacks, unlike Abe or Obama. 

After 30 countries in 2014, Abe's travel schedule this year was curtailed by his obligation to stay home during the summer passage of legislation to expand the role of his country's military. The highlight was a state visit to the U.S. where he was accorded an honor not given his Chinese counterpart: an address to both houses of Congress.

Still, Abe struggled at times to get on the diplomatic front foot, only coming up with plans to beef up Japan's role as a provider of finance for Asia's infrastructure needs after China's triumph in getting more than 40 countries, including Britain and Germany, to join its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

By comparison, Obama, who leads the world's largest economy, visited only 11 other countries in 2015. He made five international trips during the year, the longest of which was last month to Turkey, the Philippines and Malaysia for three different summits. Obama hosted a parade of foreign leaders this year — including Xi and Abe — at the White House.


Going the Extra Mile

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive in Moscow on May 8, 2015, where they joined Victory Day celebrations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive in Moscow on May 8, 2015, where they joined Victory Day celebrations.
Photographer: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Number of countries visited in 2015: 14

Biggest deal sealed: Xi capped his year by pledging $60 billion in funding to dozens of African countries, cementing China's role as the continent's biggest donor.  

Highlights: State banquet at Buckingham Palace sitting next to the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a (China) red dress and an historic meeting with Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore.

Aircraft of choice: Refitted Air China Boeing 747-400 

Full itinerary

April 20-21Pakistan
April 21-24Indonesia
May 7Kazakhstan
May 8-12Russia and Belarus
July 8-10Russia
Sept. 22-28U.S.
Oct. 19-23U.K.
 
The Duchess of Cambridge's red dress, worn at a state banquet, won over President Xi Jinping and set the Chinese media aflutter. 
The Duchess of Cambridge's red dress, worn at a state banquet, won over President Xi Jinping and set the Chinese media aflutter. 
Photographer: Dominic Lipinski/Getty
Nov. 5-6Vietnam
Nov. 6-7Singapore
Nov. 14-16Turkey
Nov. 17-19Philippines
President Xi Jinping pets a baby elephant during a visit to a wildlife sanctuary in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Dec. 2, 2015.
President Xi Jinping pets a baby elephant during a visit to a wildlife sanctuary in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Dec. 2, 2015.
Photographer: Lan Hongguang/Xinhua via Getty Images

 

Nov. 29-30France
Dec. 1-2Zimbabwe
Dec. 2-5South Africa

 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Ottawa for a three-day visit to Canada in April.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Ottawa for a three-day visit to Canada in April.
Photographer: Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images

Number of countries visited in 2015: 23

Biggest deal sealed: India and the UAE agreed to create a $75 billion fund to invest in Indian infrastructure during Modi's state trip in August. He was the first Indian leader to visit the Arab country in more than 30 years.

Highlight: Modi's tour of Xi's home province of Shaanxi, where he was greeted by red-robed monks at a Buddhist temple and saw a collection of terracotta warriors dating back to China’s first emperor. 

Aircraft of choice: Air India One, which handles VIP flights for the country's premiers and presidents

Full itinerary:

March 10-14Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka
April 9-11France
April 12-14Germany
April 14-17Canada
May 14-16China
 
Modi visits the site of the terracotta warriors in China's Shaanxi province in May 2015.
Modi visits the site of the terracotta warriors in China's Shaanxi province in May 2015.
Source: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
May 17-18Mongolia
May 18-19South Korea
June 6-7Bangladesh
July 6-8Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan
July 8-10Russia
July 10-13Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Aug. 16-17U.A.E.
Sept. 23Ireland
Sept. 23-28U.S.
 
Narendra Modi, left, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg embrace at the end of a town hall meeting at the social network's Menlo Park headquarters on Sept. 27, 2015.
Narendra Modi, left, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg embrace at the end of a town hall meeting at the social network's Menlo Park headquarters on Sept. 27, 2015.
Photographer: David Paul Morris
Nov. 12-14U.K.
Nov. 14-16Turkey
Nov. 21-23Malaysia
Nov. 23-24Singapore
Nov. 29-30France

 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves as he departs for Indonesia on April 21, 2015.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves as he departs for Indonesia on April 21, 2015.
Source: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

Number of countries visited in 2015: 23

Biggest deal sealed: After joining the negotiations late, in 2013, Abe got Japan to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the biggest regional trade agreement in history. The pact needs to be ratified by its member countries.

Highlight: Address to both houses of the U.S. Congress, the first by a Japanese Prime Minister  

Aircraft of choice: One of two government-owned jets, crewed by members of the Self-Defense Forces

Full itinerary:

Jan. 16-21Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine
March 29-30Singapore
April 21-23Indonesia
April 26-May 3U.S.
 
US President Barack Obama accompanies Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 2015.
US President Barack Obama accompanies Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 2015.
Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
June 5-9Ukraine, Germany
Sep. 26-Oct. 2U.S., Jamaica
Oct. 22-28Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan
Nov. 1-2South Korea
Nov. 13-17Turkey
Nov. 18-23Philippines, Malaysia
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller dance to reggae in Kingston, Jamaica.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller dance to reggae in Kingston, Jamaica.
Photographer: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

 

Nov. 29-Dec.2France, Luxembourg
Dec. 11-13India
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