Skip to Content

Who Is The World’s Leading Economic Power?

Businessmen standing on world map, waving American and Chinese flagsBusinessmen standing on world map, waving American and Chinese flags
Economic power - it depends who you ask.PhotoAlto/Milena Boniek Getty Images

Good morning.

Who is the world’s leading economic power?

My former colleagues at the Pew Research Center have released their latest poll asking that question of publics in 38 nations. They found a median of 42% pick the U.S., while 32% name China. But it depends on where you ask.

Across Latin America, most of Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, the U.S. is still seen as the stronger economic power. And by a 51% – 35% margin, Americans name their own country before China. U.S. esteem is highest in South Korea (66% to 27% for China), Japan (62% to 19%), Israel (52% to 33%) and Vietnam (51% to 17%).

But in seven out of 10 European Union nations, China comes out on top. It leads the U.S. by 47% to 37% in France, where President Trump is spending Bastille Day. The polls show neither Xi Jinping nor Donald Trump rank particularly high in global esteem. A median of 53% say they don’t have confidence in the Chinese leader to do the right thing in world affairs, while 74% express little or no confidence in the U.S. president. The Pew poll is the gold standard in global opinion measurement; you can find the full report here.

Click here to subscribe to Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter of must-read business news

And speaking of polls, I received a flood of feedback about Monday’s post on a survey asking top executives whether the main purpose of their company was to maximize shareholder value, bring value to customers, create value for employees, or create value for a broad set of stakeholders. One CEO of a well-known company wrote that he had recently debated this question with his own board. He argued that “stakeholders” were the right focus, while several of his board members insisted “shareholders” had to take the lead.

At an Aspen Institute event last night, I interviewed my friend and author Rick Wartzman of the Drucker Institute, whose fascinating new book “The End of Loyalty” traces changes at four iconic American companies—GE, GM, Kodak and Coca-Cola—over the last century. He argues those companies, like most in the U.S., went from a model that focused on a broad set of stakeholders in the decades after World War II, to one that emphasizes shareholders today. Wartzman says his institute’s namesake Peter Drucker was firmly in the stakeholder camp. But he says the rise of CEO pay tied to stock price has driven most CEOs into the shareholder camp – regardless of what they may tell pollsters.

Enjoy the weekend.