Announcing the list on Monday morning’s Today show, Time’s managing editor Richard Stengel said the Chinese worker had been included because “China, almost every year, is so important in the global economy and this was the year of the economy. In fact, if China had not had eight percent growth, as it had, which was due to all those workers, the world economy would be in a much worse place. So it’s a way of looking at China’s influence on the world. Which is incalculable, really.”
It will interesting to see if the Chinese worker actually wins against more mainstream nominees such as last year’s winner Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, as well as sprint champion Usain Bolt. But regardless of the result, which will be announced later today, the mere fact of nomination shows that the international media does now appreciate the importance of China’s workforce in the world economy.
Hopefully, the nomination will spur the international community to look more closely, not only at the contribution China’s workers have made but also at the problems they face on a day to day basis.
But, more importantly, it is the Chinese government that urgently needs to recognize the contribution of the country’s workers. For more than a year now, the government has been turning a blind eye to labour rights abuses on the pretext that enterprises needed help getting through the global economic crisis. Now that all the indicators show the economy is back on track, surely the time has come for the government to reaffirm the commitment to workers’ rights it showed in implementing the Labour Contract Law and other important labour legislation prior to the global economic crisis in 2008.