TO OUR READERS:
POWER IN THE MAKING (OF A SPECIAL ISSUE)
Like many things in journalism, the special Power 50 issue is planned well in advance. Also like many things in journalism, the best-laid plans often have to be scrubbed at a moment's notice to make way for the news.
That is precisely what happened last year. After months of carefully crafting and re-crafting our annual list of Asia's most powerful people, the tumult in Indonesia looked set to topple President Suharto of Indonesia. Not only was he undisputed master of his country and senior statesman of ASEAN, he had also been Asia's Most Powerful Person in our inaugural list in 1996. Given the importance of his downfall to Indonesia and to the power balance in the region, we abandoned our Power 50 cover story in favor of one on Suharto. But we ran the list of the powerful inside anyway, pruning it of Suharto, of course, and other Indonesians whose future looked precarious in those tense days. Needless to say, we did all this just before deadline.
Another year, another ranking. This time news from Yugoslavia threatened to change things at the last minute. The tragic bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in early May and the anti-NATO protests it sparked in the mainland made us question the positions of the Chinese on our list, particularly the two near the top: Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji. Would Beijing conservatives attack them for their openness to the U.S.? Would China's efforts to join the World Trade Organization be derailed? Would reform initiatives be abrogated - an important question, since reform is a major theme of this year's Power edition. "Considering how badly China needs reform - and Zhu to push it - he kept his place even after the embassy attack," says Assistant Managing Editor Ricardo Saludo, whose lead essay sets the theme for this year's Power 50 issue. "Reformers can enhance their clout in the face of setbacks, if their commitment is strong."
Guiding these discussions was Assistant Managing Editor Zoher F. Abdoolcarim, who was in charge of the Power issue for the second year in a row. "We go over the events and trends of the past 12 months, and also take into account the latest news," he says. "So the list is both reflective and immediate."
While those immediate considerations were being debated, CNN was anxiously waiting for our final ranking. As it has for the past three years, the network was preparing a program based on the Power 50 list (check your local listings for times). Last year, as Suharto teetered, we pushed their production schedules to the absolute limit. Were we going to do it again?
Not exactly, but again, the timing was close. The result of the frenzied activity, raucous exchanges (in meetings, in office corridors and over the e-mail) is a list that we hope is as provocative to read as it was to create. Says Senior Correspondent Alejandro Reyes, who profiled this year's two most powerful: "Since the Crisis, reform is power. The people at the top of the list demonstrate the sophisticated and sensitive leadership the times demand." So, who are they?
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