The List: New Year’s Resolutions for World Leaders
The year 2008 is upon us, and many people will be vowing to make big changes in the coming months. Here are a few resolutions we hope—but don’t necessarily expect—that the world’s top leaders will make.
Kin Cheung-pool/Getty Images
Kin Cheung-pool/Getty Images
Hu Jintao, China
Resolution: Lighten up
Why he should: China is too big to sweat the small stuff. Instead of throwing tantrums over the Dalai Lama, going into hysterics over the flight pattern of Taiwans president, or bristling at toy recalls, Hu and the rest of Chinas top leadership need to begin behaving like the mature, sophisticated players they claim to be. Hu is actually in an enviable position: China gets to wear all the trappings of a major world power, without the ultimate responsibilities of being No. 1. He should take advantage of the situation to showcase his magnanimity.
Why he wont: Because its easier to throw a hissy fit. China has seen that when it complainsabout what it considers a raw deal on tainted toys or Bushs audience with the Dalia Lamait gets results. But the world will soon wise up to which complaints are sincere and those that are simply for show. Either Hu needs to be smarter about picking his battles, or the world needs to learn not to jump when China stirs.
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images
Vladimir Putin, Russia
Resolution: Learn to let go
Why he should: Hes had his turn. Hes turned Russian politics into a personality cult, empowered his security-services buddies, and left a one-trick, energy-reliant economy. Since being elected in 2000, Putin has engineered the situation so that he alone holds all of the countrys political and economic cards. Its a state of affairs that just might continue if he follows through on his pledge to become prime minister under his anointed successor, Dmitri Medvedev. If Putin doesnt move gracefully into retirement soon, Medvedevs chances for moving the country forward will be slim.
Why he wont: Putins shooting for the history books. He prefers stability over democratic reforms, and hes not about to hand over complete control of the system he has worked hard to build to an untested new leader.
VOLKER HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images
George W. Bush, United States
Resolution: Push China for change at the Beijing Olympics
Why he should: Theyll listen. Chinas rulers want nothing more than to throw the party of the century. They need the worlds most influential leaders and top-tier celebrities to come to Beijing to make the celebration legit. But they are likely willing to make a few concessions to guarantee that everyone-who-is-anyone shows up. So, why doesnt Bush ask that a few political prisoners be released before hell set a foot in Beijing? What if he mentions the names of a few Chinese democracy activists while taking in the track-and-field events? Bush is always talking about advancing democracy and freedom; heres a chance to make a real difference.
Why he wont: He doesnt want to rock the boat. Bush has already said that hes attending the Olympics only as a sports fan.
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Nicolas Sarkozy, France
Resolution: Stick to his guns and drop the 35-hour work week
Why he should: Fixing the French economy will take no less. Sarkozys domestic honeymoon is over, and pushing through his ambitious economic agenda in 2008, which includes a plan to allow individual companies to negotiate a longer work week, will be tough. But Frances state-dominated economy badly needs reform. And after staring down striking transport workers this past fall, Sarko showed that he might have the backbone to convince France to follow his lead. Now is no time to go wobbly.
Why he wont: His approval ratings will continue to drop. Sarkozys promises of economic growth sounded good on the campaign trail, but le prsident is finding that his means–getting the French to work harder–will be a tough sell.
John Moore/Getty Images
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan
Resolution: Find Osama
Why he should: Because he needs a miracle. If Musharraf wants to hold on to his tenuous grip on power, hell need all the help he can get from Washington. What better way to burnish his falling star than finally nabbing Osama bin Laden? After Benazir Bhuttos assassination, Musharraf looks, at best, vulnerable and, at worst, culpable. Catching the worlds most wanted terrorist will not only strike a blow against militants who want to see Musharraf go the way of Bhutto, but may also calm the grief-stricken supporters of the former prime minister.
Why he wont: It wont be popular on the street or with the Army. Militant tribal leaders in the frontier provinces, who would have to be confronted if the search were to get serious, are rumored to enjoy sympathy from Pakistani soldiers in the area, and Musharraf is unlikely to add any points to his dismal approval ratings in Pakistan by seizing a man who polls better than he does.
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran
Resolution: Say something nice to Israel
Why he should: Itll throw his detractors for a loop. Israel isnt going to be wiped off the map anytime soon, no matter what Ahmadinejad says. And while the Iranian president doesnt have to suddenly start praising all things Israel, a conciliatory word or two might do wonders not just for Middle East peace, but also for Ahmadinejads reputation as an odious firebrand. Even if he doesnt mean what he says, a few nice words could make frenemies of the regions traditional enemies.
Why he wont: He feels emboldened. With Ahmadinejad crowing about the U.S.s surrender over the National Intelligence Estimate on Irans nuclear capability, he no doubt sees more benefit in keeping Israel as his personal whipping boy.
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