We don’t particularly like it when Time Magazine chooses abstract notions or groups to give its “Person of the Year” award to: it feels contrived and too nebulous to really serve as an honor to anyone, and shows a little too much sensationalism for our clearly refined palates. Then again, we might just be bitter that we didn’t get a special mention for 2006’s social media-centric “You” Person of the Year award when Wang Xiaofei got one. In any case, the shortlist of this year’s candidates is out, and some very notable Chinese people are on it. By our count, there’s nearly 800 million on the list.
Okay, so maybe none of the people who make up “the Chinese Worker” are that notable: in fact, the classification is so vague that it could pretty much mean any Chinese person who’s got a job in China. So we’ve been trying to intuitively hone their definition: do they mean factory workers? Day labourers? Migrant workers? Street-crossing guards? Time’s explanatory one liner isn’t much help: they only say “they are an increasingly influential group in one of the world’s most powerful economies,” which should probably be true of any economy and its workers.
Considering the global recession, we’re a bit surprised that Chinese workers could be named the group who most influenced the world this year, and it makes us suspect some “China is rising” fearmongering on Time’s part. The other candidates include Steve Jobs, Ben Bernake, Nancy Pelosi, Stanley McChrystal, Usain Bolt and Barack Obama, so if the Chinese worker really wants to win, they better start working around the clock to prove their worth. Oh, wait, they already do.
The Person of the Year award seems a bit ill suited for the Chinese worker, as any honorific that isn’t a pay raise is out of place. Then again, Time will probably sell a lot of copies if the Chinese worker wins, as everyone would be too confused about what “the Chinese Worker” signifies to not buy one. And let’s not forget the added humor value: as one twitter user astutely posted, it will be the same people who made the trophy receiving it, which is probably as true as it is funny.