Two leaders honoured for reforms and diplomacy

Two leaders honoured for reforms and diplomacy

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left, above) and China's President Xi Jinping are joint winners of The Straits Times' Asian of the Year award.

Making an exception to the practice of picking a single winner, Straits Times editors chose the two leaders for this year's award.

The reason: both men have made major contributions through their reforms at home, as well as their diplomacy around the region.

But their success, and the hopes for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world, now also rest with them being able to work together to manage the testy relations between their two countries.

"Both men have unveiled sweeping reform agendas at home, while seeking to boost their respective country's influence abroad," said Mr Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times.

"The policies they seek to implement, if successful, would impact millions of people in wider Asia, and contribute to a better future."

The Straits Times awards the Asian of the Year honour every December to a person or organisation who has contributed significantly to the Asian continent. The Straits Times, founded in 1845, is uniquely placed to make the award, given its commitment to covering the region, and the resources it had devoted over the years to doing so, he said.

Last year, the inaugural Asian of the Year award went to Myanmar's President Thein Sein for his role in loosening political and economic fetters in his country.

Mr Xi took charge of China in November last year while Mr Abe rose to power a few weeks later. Early in their tenures, both men signalled the extraordinary importance they place on ties with ASEAN.

Mr Abe, in his second stint as prime minister, has visited every ASEAN country since taking office. When Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, he ordered one of the biggest peacetime mobilisations of troops to aid his Asian neighbour. In May, he announced that Japan would cancel the government debt owed it by Myanmar.

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