No such single figure prevails in China. The complex hierarchy of past, present and future holders of the highest posts in the echelons of the Communist Part - and thus of the state- is partially understood by foreign commentators; though all assessments of power shifts and secret alliances are subject constantly to revision. No system that channels humans who are heavily endowed with ambition and personality through the corridors of the Great Hall of the People and the courtyards of the Forbidden City can work as smoothly as the Chinese authorities would have one believe: but their system has responded remarkably well to the complex processes of liberalisation and hugely rapid economic change and development, delivering 9%+ economic growth despite the turmoil in global capital markets and its impact on American and European buyers of Chinese goods. In recent days various Chinese ministers and bank officials have popped up as expert spokespersons on the specific issues of the day; talking truth to the diminishing western powers, asserting China's independent assessment of policy options, emphasising that their country is now a responsible global superpower and demonstrating that this truly is the case.
The different modes of success of Indian and Chinese leadership do not betoken a general superiority of Asian political models, or of Asian politicians over the rest of the global crop. I have lost count of the succession of ineffectual Japanese Prime Ministers who have come and gone since I first had the privilege of being a visiting professor there; and the politics of South Korea hardly bear forensic examination. Thailand has a Prime Minister who was elected solely because she is somebody's sister; and the entire country is scared of what will happen when the revered King dies and his heir - generally regarded as a wastrel, or worse - claims the inheritance. Sri Lanka is a military dictatorship, Pakistan is prey to factions that assemble and undermine sullenly-consensual governments that exist by striking compromises with the military. Politics in Indonesia and Malaysia is being edged slowly in the direction of 'moderate Islamism', which also seems to be the trend is the Arab world from Saudi Arabia to Morocco. Iran is suffering an attempt at permanent revolution that could be ridiculous if it were not armed to be dangerous to its neighbours; while Iraq is the agonised outcome of more than half a century of conflict.
We have not yet glanced at the prevailing political mode in most Asian states, nor any in Latin America: so there is much of the world left to review in future blogs. One area that must briefly be mentioned in this wide-ranging look at the political effectiveness of various people and situations is Europe. Two countries - Italy and Greece - are directly ruled by EU Proconsuls; and half a dozen are constitutional monarchies where the party-political mix in government is pragmatic and is not existentially important. In France, Germany and the United Kingdom, despite very different rhetoric surrounding the relative position of the state government to the EU, it is clear that their politically-insecure leaders see the maintenance of the Union as the key priority. The original purpose of the Union was to prevent a third 'world' war: now it is seen as potentially [though not yet actually] an entity big enough to allow the European economy that is being overtaken by emergent powers to have a chance of survival on the world stage. The political leaders in the predominant EU member states, and [often more so] in the smaller states that follow them, are focussed on what Europe can do for the economic environment, and thus enable growth to return and eventually generate enough new wealth to transcend the present gloomy prospect. That was the proposition on which Heath 'sold' the EEC to the British Parliament and people, and Cameron and Merkel and Sarkozi are relying upon the same hope today. Not much fruit has sprung from Heath's planting of forty years ago and the politicians of 2011 understand that they cannot get away for long simply by saying that the long-term gains [when we are all dead] will make the short-term pains [that will be felt for several years of the immediate future] worth while. The message is impossible to deliver in a positive package, but that is the message to which the inescapable impact of the Iron Law of Wages has driven them. For European connoisseurs of politician rhetoric, if for nobody else, interesting times lie ahead.
For an explanation of the Iron Law of Wages, see Personal Political Economy which is accessible from this site.