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Monday, November 29, 2010

Guess Hu’s number one ?

Chinese president Hu Jin Tao tops Obama as the most influential man, according to Forbes’ list.

A Different Spin Ben Ibrahim

The World's Most Powerful People:
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WHILE presenting a morning talk show with my colleague Shah, I asked my co-host if he knew who the Forbes’ most influential man was? He was not quite sure at that time, as it was not yet announced, he just asked: “Who?”

I responded in a pun tone, as the news was also just being communicated to me via my earpiece, and said “Who you might ask, well it’s Mr Hu (pronounced WHO at that time on air) Jin Tao.”

At the beginning of the month, Chinese President Hu Jintao topped the Forbes magazine list of the world’s most powerful people.

Making this achievement even more memorable was the fact that he dethroned US President Barack Obama who slipped to second spot.

Once upon a time I wouldn’t have thought that an Asian leader would be the cream of the crop or the top of the pick.

When I was growing up it was all about how Bill Clinton did this and how Ronald Reagan achieved that and how hard Tony Blair worked towards finding peace in the Middle East.

Then, when Barack Obama became the first African-American President; my theory that the West was more progressive than the East, was almost a foregone conclusion.

But Hu Jintao has given us Asians something good to feel about and confidence that an Asian leader can achieve great things.

I remember a story once told to me by my good friend Thomas when he was studying in the United States that he had to act like the stereotypical Chinaman to get things done.

Stereotypes like speaking broken English, laughing like the typical loud Chinaman who did not know any better, and being perpetually bullied by the egocentric Western bigot.

Thomas would always say that he hated it, but it got things done without having to offend anybody.

How the times are changing as many Western entrepreneurs are trying to tap the Chinese business market and are now trying to kow tow to Chinese businessmen. I love change!

While I am writing this article with a bit of laughter, as these rankings are usually a bit subjective, I am sure many of you are wondering if it is fair to compare leadership efficiency of both leaders as both the United States and China have very different ways of doing things.

Well, according to the Forbes magazine, they used four criteria to define power – whether the person has influence over a lot of people, whether they have significant wealth compared to their peers, whether they are powerful in more than one sphere and whether they actively wield power.

Based on these criteria, let’s analyse this carefully – Hu presides over 1.3 billion people, one fifth of the world’s population, and over one of the globe’s largest army.

Under his leadership, China has become the second biggest economy.

He has managed to increase the purchasing power of the average Chinese citizen and he has also managed to censor the Internet.

While I disagree with his censorship of the Net, I have to salute the man overall as he managed to bring change which is usually the biggest obstacle and hurdle of any leader.

If we are to analyse Obama’s leadership effectiveness, his key result indicators are not so positive.

Twenty four months ago, he came in with his big slogan “Yes, We can” and promised America how he can bring change to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

While I can’t fault the man for his efforts and endeavours, we have to measure him by his results. Under his leadership, his Democratic Party suffered a big blow in the US midterm elections, with the president losing support of the House of Representatives and barely holding onto the Senate.

He was also heavily criticised by the US media for being too slow, a sentiment that some say was shared by his former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, even though this statement is not substantiated.

However, Obama can still boast that he remains the leader of the world’s largest economy and is commander-in-chief of the world largest and deadliest military. Afghanistan can vouch for that!

To also illustrate how times are changing, once upon a time the world used to dance to the tune of the US currency exchange rate. Now, many economists around the world are trying to predict if China will adjust its currency peg.

The Americans have failed at trying to get China to revalue the yuan and are now trying to pass a Congressional bill that would impose taxes on Chinese goods, in order to compensate for China’s undervalued currency.

Well folks, times have changed and are still changing.

Even though some would say Hu Jintao is a draconian dictator, he still manages to bring change to the world’s biggest country and he managed to relegate the head of the developed world to the silver medal spot.

I would have never thought that this would be possible, but as we live in a very complex world, stranger things will continue to happen, and let’s hope for the better.

In the recent report that announced the magazine’s “most powerful list”, Forbes described Hu Jintao as a Moses-type character. They said: “Unlike his Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor the Internet without the meddling from pesky bureaucrats and courts.”

Judging by how well the Chinese economy is progressing, it may also seem that Hu Jintao is the better businessman. Maybe due to the fact that he knows how to set a good price for all Chinese goods and services compared to Obama and in my opinion I think he knows how to open an international business discussion better than his American counterpart, and that is by starting the discussion with the words “DISCOUNT DISCOUNT!”

> Ben Ibrahim has a Masters in Management, and works as a TV Presenter. He is also a lecturer, MC and writer. He has hosted a wide variety of shows, and is currently hosting a business program called Entrepreneur, and a daily morning talk show on Bernama TV called The Breakfast Club. For more information about Ben, log onto or

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