Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Hu Jintao

Highs: China's poker-faced President steered his booming nation out of the Great Recession and started to assert China's financial muscle on the global stage. At G20 summits in June and November, the Chinese resisted Western calls to devalue their currency and instead floated the possibility of detaching the global economy from the US dollar. Hu also secured his own legacy with the Oct. 18 appointment of Xi Jinping, a Hu acolyte, as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission — a technocratic title that belies its true weight: Xi is now Hu's heir apparent.

Lows: For all of China's geo-political heft, Hu has done little to address international concerns over China's political system. Beijing's tolerance of North Korean attacks on a South Korean ship and naval installation drew international condemnation. And, in a year where China eclipsed Japan as the world's second largest economy, most will remember China's prickly denunciation of Norway's Nobel committee for awarding the Peace Prize to Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo.

Ishaan Tharoor