Time honours the 'Chinese worker'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 December, 2009, 12:00am

An American banker took the top prize, but just as eye-catching was the runner-up in Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' award - a faceless 'Chinese worker'.

For 2009 the American magazine yesterday named US Federal Reserve bank chairman Ben Bernanke. 'The recession was the story of the year,' Time managing editor Richard Stengel said. 'Without Ben Bernanke, it would have been a lot worse. Bernanke didn't just learn from history; he wrote it himself and was damned if he was going to repeat it.'

The magazine, however, picked the nameless 'Chinese worker' as the runner-up, together with big names such as United States politician Nancy Pelosi and Jamaican sprint champion Usain Bolt.

The magazine said it made the decision because it was the toil of the army of Chinese workers that pulled the world economy through thick and thin. 'In China they have a word for it, baoba, meaning 'protect eight' - the 8 per cent annual economic growth rate that officials believe is critical to ensuring social stability,' the magazine said.

'A year ago, many thought hitting such a figure in 2009 was a pipe dream. But China has done it, and this year it remains the world's fastest-growing major economy - and an economic stimulus for everyone else.

'Who deserves the credit? Above all, the tens of millions of workers who have left their homes, and often their families, to find work in the factories of China's booming coastal cities,' it said. 'Near [a Shenzhen] factory we found some of the people who are leading the world to economic recovery: Chinese men and women, their struggles in the past, their thoughts on the present and their eyes on the future.'

The only previous Chinese Person of the Year is former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Deng was named twice - in 1978 and 1985, for transforming China from a Stalinist state to a thriving economy. Under the open-door policy that he introduced, millions of rural people struggling to make a living rushed to coastal cities, where they worked in factories to create a leading global manufacturing power base.

US President Barack Obama, last year's winner, and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs were also on a shortlist revealed by Time on Monday.

Time senior writer Michael Grunwald said the main reason Bernanke was selected was because he was 'the most important player guiding the world's most important economy'.