By Paul Chung
Li Na is one of the seven luminaries who grace this year’s TIME 100 special edition cover.
Every year, TIME publishes a list of what it believes are the 100 most influential people across the world. Eight Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese made the final list in the recently published 2013 edition.
The list is broken down into five categories: titans, pioneers, leaders, icons, and artists.
This year’s list includes:
As China embarks on a period of renewal, the role of Xi Jinping, its new President, is central. Each of the five generations of leaders since the founding of the People’s Republic of China has represented a particular aspect of the Chinese experience. Xi’s is that of the children of those Chinese who traversed the purgatory of the Cultural Revolution. He found his own life disrupted, as he was sent to the countryside for seven years.
Recent Chinese First Ladies have had one trait in common: anonymity. But Peng Liyuan, the stylish second wife of new leader Xi Jinping, isn’t shying away from the camera. During Xi’s first presidential trip abroad in March, she conducted a one-woman charm offensive across Russia and Africa, humanizing the communist regime.
Kai-Fu Lee’s story has elements of what we think of as a typically American story — of immigration, innovation and, ultimately, fearlessness. Born in Taiwan and educated at Columbia University, Lee made his mark first at Apple in the 1990s, then at Microsoft’s China research division and finally as founding president of Google China. In 2009, he founded Innovation Works, an incubator for Chinese tech start-ups.
So executive producer Rob Thomas and I turned to Perry Chen’s incredible crowdfunding website, Kickstarter. The setup was fun and simple. In exchange for their pledges, we’d give fans personal prizes — a digital copy of the movie for $35, a video message from me for $600 and so on. We needed $2 million to make the movie. We wound up raising $5.7 million from more than 90,000 backers.
Hong Kong has been lucky to have such a regulator in the form of Andrew Sheng, who served as deputy chief executive of its monetary authority. And China has been lucky enough to have him as the chief adviser to its Banking Regulatory Commission. Other countries would have done well if they had a person of Sheng’s caliber in similar positions of influence.
Ren Zhengfei is the world’s most controversial businessman. At home, the founder and CEO of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei is a heroic entrepreneur who has proved China can compete with the West in the most cutting-edge industries. To his detractors, Ren is a potentially lethal security threat whose gear could be manipulated by Beijing to disrupt communications and steal secrets.
Wang Shu is the rare architect who has successfully blended China’s quest for novel and eye-catching architecture with respect for traditional aesthetics. The 2012 winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the profession’s highest honor, Wang and his Amateur Architecture Studio have designed buildings that maintain the sensibilities of Chinese courtyards but rework them for settings ranging from apartment buildings to waterfronts.
Li Na is a maverick. Who else would stand up to the centralized Chinese sports system as Li did, back in 2008, when she pushed for more control over her career? Li persuaded the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA) to start the “fly alone” policy, which gives players more independence. Now they keep more of their money, giving just a fraction of their earnings to the CTA, compared with the bulk before. Rather than let the bureaucrats pick her coach, Li went with Jiang Shan, who is now her husband. Li has soared.