who | where | when



Who | Where | When - International Travel of the PRC Leaders (1949-2020) is a dataset and a research tool for those analyzing Chinese foreign policy and overall China's international relations with the world since the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.

The dataset records almost 600 official international trips of two top Chinese leaders at any given time, typically the President and the Premier. For each trip, we list the person's name and the position, year, and the visited location.

The Who | Where | When dataset is freely available to anyone interested in Chinese international relations, including researchers, journalists, policymakers, or students. It is our goal to update the dataset in the future.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or trips to add to the dataset, please, reach out to Richard Q. Turcsanyi or use the automated form below.

Below, we present several charts visualizing the data and highlight the main takaways.

When referring to the dataset and information it contains, please use the following citation:

R. Turcsányi, M. Eckert, M. Šimalčík, N. Majsniarová (2021). 'WHO | WHERE | WHEN - International travel of the PRC leaders (1949-2020).' Dataset. Central European Institute of Asian Studies (CEIAS).

A global footprint

Mapping international trips of Chinese leaders

Overall, Russia (including previously Soviet Union) is the most travelled destination by the top Chinese leaders with 40 recorded individual trips in our dataset.

The second most popular destination is the U.S. (23 trips), followed by third North Korea (18 trips), fourth Malaysia (15 trips), and Germany, India, and Japan on a joint fifth place (14 trips each).

Top 10 most visited countries

From the regional perspective, most of the foreign trips of the top Chinese leaders were to Asian and European countries, significantly ahead of Africa and Latin America. North America and the Pacific regions have attracted the least official trips.

Chinese leadership trips by continent

China's globetrotters

International trips per leadership era

International trips per year

With the time going, Chinese leaders have traveled more and more, with each of the five generations of leaders recording more trips than the previous one (even as the first two generations lasted longer than the more recent three). There have been some ups and downs on the way, with some years recording more trips than others. Most visibly, the Cultural Revolution years (1966-1976) and COVID-19 pandemic (2020 onwards) put an almost entire stop to the foreign trips.

After the Deng Xiaoping era began in 1978, the level of international travel immediately reached historical heights. The next significant jump in the number of trips per year occurred only with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, who were subsequently out-traveled by the current leadership of the fifth generation (Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang).

Visiting the developing world

International trips to developed, communist, and devoping countries per leadership era

It is interesting to note how the preferred destinations changed throughout the five generations of the PRC leadership. During the Mao era, most of the foreign trips were to the developing and Communist countries, with only a minimum to the developed countries. The share of the developed countries among the destinations increased significantly in the Deng era and then again in the Hu era, only to decrease somewhat under Xi Jinping.

In turn, the share of trips to the Communist countries naturally took a downward turn after the collapse of Eastern European Communist regimes at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.

Developing countries take consistently the largest share of the international travel of the Chinese leadership, yet there are some interesting dynamics. During the Deng period, the share was the lowest as the new emphasis was put on the developed world, while the old Communist partners still loomed large. The 1989 Tiananmen massacre changed the position visibly – in the years before no trips to the developing countries were recorded, while for a few years afterwards, no trips to the developed world occurred.

Visits to developed, communist, and devoping countries per year

Travels across the leadership

International trips of Presidents & Leaders

International trips of Prime Ministers

Dividing leaders between the presidents and premiers, there are some noteworthy findings. Under Mao, it was premier Zhou Enlai who did most of the traveling instead of the Great Helmsman himself. Similarly, under Hu Jintao, it was Premier Wen Jiabao who did most of the traveling –. when compared to President Hu, but also when compared to all other Premiers of the PRC.

Contrary to that, the strongest role of the president in terms of international trips can be visible under President Xi Jinping who takes the largest share of international trips of all the PRC presidents (in comparison to Premiers). This underlines the general observation that Xi has usurped much power at the expense of Premier Li when compared to the previous arrangements of the Hu-Wen administration.

International trips according to leadership levels

Contact us

Did we miss anything important? Please, let us know via the form.

For other matters, please get in touch with us via e-mail: office@ceias.eu