Friday, 5 November 2010

Hu Jintao declared "World's Most Powerful Person"

Hu Jintao has been declared "world's most powerful person" by Forbes Magazine. If Tory grandee Malcolm Rifkind had not already got there with this brilliant article on the premature nature of much of the hyperbolae over China's assent to world-power status (although this is undoubtedly what is gradually taking place), this award would have sparked an attempt by myself to cover the same ground. Happily, Malcolm Rifkind's piece is far better than anything I might produce. Money quote:
" . . . focusing on China’s overall GDP is deceptive. The day at which China’s overall goods and services eclipse those of the United States will see no sudden and remarkable realignment of the world order. The Allies’ victory in World War II, which created the bipolar world overseen by the US and USSR, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which elevated the United States to a position of unipolarity, aren’t suitable comparisons.

For all its progress, per capita GDP in China remains low. Last year, when spread across its gigantic population, China’s GDP amounted to just $6,600 per person compared with the $46,400 for the average American. Such figures highlight an important point—while China’s overall GDP is fast approaching that of the US, the level of disposable income in the country remains low. It will be decades before China is able to introduce the tax rates that would be necessary to fund a global presence akin to that adopted by the US military."

In reality, despite the dictatorial powers that Hu Jintao wields in comparison to Barack Obama, Obama remains the president of the world's largest national economy, commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful military, and leader of a country which, despite the great loss of credibility inflicted by revelations of human rights abuses during the war against terror, retains a great cultural attraction to the rest of the world. It will take more even than the surpassing of the United States in nominal GDP terms (which is scheduled to take place sometime around 2030 according to current predictions) to turn China's leaders into more powerful men (and, like the US elite, they are overwhelmingly made up of men) than the freely elected president of the United States.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

GDP is a pretty bad indicator of economic power.

Two factors- Hu has more executive power than individual lawmakers in the US. But if you count the corporations that buy American lawmakers maybe they will give him a run for his money.

GDP without taking into account 1) disposable income 2) net worth 3) net financial position is worthless.

Hu can literally throw trillions around. All of America's financial power is tied down by state and personal debts.

But they can produce a lot of "financial products", sure.