The prestigious TIME magazine revealed the most influential people of 2022 on 23 May. Twenty-one names, including Asian and Asian-origin personalities, are among the world’s most powerful political figures, acclaimed entertainers and inspiring activists.
The list categorised the personalities under six heads — Artists, Innovators, Titans, Leaders, Icons and Pioneers.
How does TIME create the most influential list
In its report on how the list was made, TIME said that the only parameter editors of the magazine consider when selecting the names is the influence of a personality.
“Who shaped the year? Who stood up? Who stood out? Influence, of course, may be for good or for ill—a dichotomy never more visible than in this year’s TIME 100,” noted TIME.
The Asian and Asian-origin names on the list come from diverse fields and countries such as China, India, Malaysia and South Korea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Malaysian acting great Michelle Yeoh, Indian businessman Gautam Adani and women’s rights lawyer Karuna Nundy, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, and Syrian lawyers Mazen Darwish and Anwar Al Bunni share the space with famous Asian-origin names such as actor Simu Liu, Olympians Eileen Gu and Nathan Chen, and singer Michelle Zauner.
Among the most notable non-Asian personalities on the 2022 TIME 100 list are US President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, singer-songwriter Adele, actors Zendaya and Ariana DeBose, AI pioneer Timnit Gebru, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, media personality Oprah Winfrey, US Supreme Court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Here are all the Asians mentioned on the TIME Most Influential People of 2022 list
Michelle Yeoh — Malaysia
Yeoh was recognised by TIME magazine as one of the most influential people of 2022 for achieving “the impossible again and again.”
Writing for the magazine, Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, described Yeoh as someone who has always been setting the bar higher than last time.
“We all delighted in watching her turn a would-be villain into a sympathetic portrait of maternal strength and sacrifice in Crazy Rich Asians. And now, with “Everything Everywhere All at Once, she truly blows our minds,” Kwan noted, referring to the record-breaking 2018 rom-com and the acclaimed 2022 fantasy, respectively.
Gautam Adani — India
Debasish Roy Chowdhury, the co-author of To Kill a Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism, underscored the parallel between the rise of the billionaire businessman and the political graph of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his essay for Gautam Adani.
“Critics attribute his meteoric rise to his proximity to Modi, whose government is apparently following a policy of creating ‘national champions,’ like Adani, showering business enterprises with favors to help them become global leaders,” wrote Roy Chowdhury.
“With Modi’s stated goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2025, Adani’s journey may have only just begun,” he added.
Adani is the chairman of Adani Group, which has seven publicly traded companies involved in everything from ports to consumer goods and solar energy.
Hwang Dong-hyuk — South Korea
A prolific filmmaker in his home country, Hwang shot to international fame with the 2021 Netflix show Squid Game. Listed among the ‘Titans’ of TIME’s Most Influential People of 2022, his essay for the magazine was written by Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae.
“Much of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s success stems from his ability to illuminate the feelings of the characters and to build believable lives for them from the ground up,” Lee wrote.
“Director Hwang was brilliant in visualizing this intricate and savage world that looked like a game, but revealed piercing truths about society and humanity. He was able to take something brutal and make it beautiful,” he added.
Xi Jinping — China
The immensely powerful Chinese president has been a regular on TIME 100 since he was described as the “heir apparent” by journalist Fareed Zakaria on the 2011 list.
In his profile for Xi, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, the Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine and author of The Oxford History of Modern China, wrote that to assess the Chinese president’s impact in 2022, “it’s worth highlighting four things he has not done but might have: reconsidered the zero-COVID strategy that has been criticized by the World Health Organization chief as ‘not sustainable’; reversed course on Xinjiang, the site of horrific human-rights abuses; distanced himself from a warmongering Vladimir Putin; and, of course, named a successor.”
Yoon Suk-yeol — South Korea
The newly elected president of South Korea was named among the ‘Leaders’ on TIME magazine’s Most Influential People of 2022 list.
The former prosecutor, who belongs to the conservative People Power Party, has been open about strengthening ties with the US and offered to help build North Korea‘s economy if they agreed to complete denuclearisation.
Amy Gunia, a TIME staff member, remarks that while the first will “likely create friction with China,” the offer to North Korea is a “deal that analysts say Kim Jong Un is unlikely to accept.”
Gunia also drew attention to how Yoon “inflamed divisions by weaponizing antifeminist rhetoric to gain support” and cited a Gallup Korea poll in which only 55 percent of respondents said they believe the new president can do a good job.
Karuna Nundy — India
The Supreme Court lawyer was included in the 2022 TIME 100 list for championing women’s rights in the courtroom and beyond. Nundy is one of the most powerful voices for women in India and is hailed for advocating the reformation of antirape laws and fighting cases connected to sexual harassment at workplaces.
“Most recently, she is litigating a challenge to India’s rape law that contains a legal exemption for marital rape,” noted Menaka Guruswamy in her essay for Nundy. Guruswamy, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, was herself named in the TIME 100 list of 2019, along with Arundhati Katju.
Khurram Parvez — India
The chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances was arrested in November 2021 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as an accused in a terror funding case.
“He had to be silenced, for his was a voice that resounded around the globe for his fierce fight against human rights violations and injustices in the Kashmir region,” wrote journalist Rana Ayyub in Parvez’s profile for TIME.
Calling Parvez a “modern-day David,” Ayyub wrote he is “the story and the storyteller of the insurgency and the betrayal of the people of Kashmir.”
Umar Ata Bandial — Pakistan
Bandial is the Chief Justice of Pakistan who was among those at the centre of the political turmoil in the country that led to the ouster of the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
When Khan dissolved Parliament in April 2022, Bandial declared it “unconstitutional” and overturned the premier’s move. This paved the way for the united Opposition to go ahead with their no-confidence motion and eventually come to power.
Calling Bandial a “polite and understated,” Chief Justice, former Leader of the House in the Senate of Pakistan, Aitzaz Ahsan, wrote that “the Columbia- and Cambridge-educated jurist bears the heavy mantle of not just delivering justice but also being seen to do so.”
Sun Chunlan — China
Sun Chunlan is the vice premier of China. She is also one of the only eight women in history to have become a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, she is one of the most eminent personalities on TIME magazine’s Most Influential People of 2022 list.
TIME correspondent Charlie Campbell underlined that Sun had humble beginnings, starting as a worker on the floor of a watch factory.
“Today, the 71-year-old is the nation’s top official overseeing COVID-19 pandemic control, demonstrating the tremendous faith shown in her by strongman President Xi Jinping at a critical point, with outbreaks in a number of major cities,” Campbell added.
Sun has been at the forefront of China’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic since the very beginning. Though China’s strict policy has come in for criticism, Campbell remarked that “Sun is staunchly upholding Xi’s diktat.”
Peng Shuai — China
Expressing concern for Peng, Chinese feminist activist Lü Pin wrote that the tennis star might “be experiencing unspeakable cruelty” after accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex during a years-long on-off relationship.
After her November 2021 post, in which she accused Zhang on the Chinese social media site Weibo, went viral, Peng disappeared from public view. It prompted outrage and concern from prominent names, sporting bodies and governments around the world.
She reappeared later in staged settings and denied the allegations. This led to the US joining some other countries in the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over China’s human rights record.
“Peng undoubtedly was aware from the start of the dangers inherent in speaking out. In the now-deleted post, she described her actions as a moth to a flame, an egg to a stone, and a self-destruction. Her account has catapulted an unprecedented defense of women’s rights against authoritarian power,” wrote Pin.
Hoda Khamosh — Afghanistan
Listed among the ‘Icons’ of TIME magazine’s Most Influential People of 2022, the Afghan women’s rights activist and educator grew up during the American occupation of her country. She helped promote education and women’s empowerment before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021.
Khamosh lost her mother and sister to the Taliban and fled the country. She was one of the six women invited to attend a conference with the Taliban in Oslo, Norway, in February 2022.
At the conference, Khamosh raised her voice for the release of Tamana Zaryabi Paryani and Parawana Ibrahimkhel, two women activists who disappeared after participating in a series of protests against the Taliban.
“Aware that her actions would likely prevent returning safely to Afghanistan, Khamosh used her voice and opportunity to name the plight of those who don’t have either,” wrote Karl Vick, TIME editor at large, in the essay for Khamosh.
Panmao Zhai — China
Zhai, a Chinese climatologist, was named in the 2022 TIME 100 list, along with French climate scientist Valérie Masson-Delmotte, for the August 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that declared climate change as “code red for humanity.”
Over 200 international climate scientists contributed to and more than 14,000 scientific papers were consulted for the report.
Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in TIME that Zhai and Masson-Delmotte, who coordinated as co-chairs of the Working Group I of the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC, “steered the enormous undertaking amidst COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, which meant for the first time, this massive piece of work was coordinated completely online.”
Mazen Darwish and Anwar Al Bunni — Syria
The dogged efforts of Syrian lawyers Anwar Al Bunni and Mazen Darwish led to the sentencing of former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar R. for crimes against humanity. Al Bunni and Darwish helped gather witnesses and evidence against Anwar. They testified at the trial held in Germany, too.
The two lawyers have been fighting against the authoritarian Syrian state’s persecution of innocents in the country for years. They were imprisoned in Syria before they escaped to Europe.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), wrote that the “dent in the impunity behind so many atrocities in Syria…pays a measure of respect to the victims and provides hope for further justice.”
Asian-origin names in TIME magazine’s Most Influential People of 2022 list
The Chinese-Canadian actor shot to international fame as Shang-Chi in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).
“Simu has been working hard to get through closed doors, and now he wants to hold those doors open for others,” wrote actor Sandra Oh, praising Liu in her profile for the 2022 TIME 100 list.
“You see him doing that through the way he speaks out against hateful violence, his openness about his own experiences of isolation and discrimination, his professional choices. He’s our superhero,” Oh added.
Son of Chinese immigrants, the American figure skater won a gold in the singles competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and a silver in the team event.
Five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medallist Chinese-American figure skater Michelle Kwan called Chen “an inspiration in his own right”.
“He has forever changed men’s figure skating, setting new standards with his quadruple jumps. It won’t be long before we hear athletes say they looked up to Nathan Chen,” wrote Kwan.
The Korean-American singer is the lead vocalist of alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast and recently performed at Coachella 2022. Actor and writer Bowen Yang described her as a multi-faceted personality.
“She’s one of those musicians, writers, vocalists, and cooks who has the ability to meld all her media into perfect concert with one another,” Wang wrote, adding that Zauner “intertwines the threads of her art into perfect plaits” and allows her fans to “find something in our own lives, a new strand with which to adorn ourselves.”
Bajaria, who is the head of Global TV at Netflix, is the lone Indian American on the list. Helming English-language and local-language scripted and unscripted series since 2020, Bajaria has helped present some of the finest shows on the streaming platform, including Bridgerton (2020-present) and Squid Game (2021).
Noting this in her essay, Emmy-nominated actress, writer and producer Mindy Kaling wrote that Bajaria’s career “is full of gambles that have materialized into huge successes.”
Kaling added that Bajaria is “opening doors for women and people of color by supporting them and giving them a platform.”
“My show, Never Have I Ever, a coming-of-age comedy about an Indian American teen, was seen by 40 million people when it debuted on Netflix. It was Bela’s idea to make that show!” she wrote.
Maya Lin is an American architect and sculptor who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Lin, daughter of Chinese immigrants, was named among TIME magazine’s most influential people of 2022 because of her artwork titled Ghost Forest. Unveiled at Madison Square Park in 2021, the public artwork featured 49 Atlantic white cedar trees devoid of leaves and resembling a dead woodland.
In the essay for Lin, novelist Celeste Ng noted that Ghost Forest provided “an eerie glimpse into the future,” by depicting “the slow decimation of forests that’s already occurring around the globe.”
Ng pointed out that Lin has “an uncanny power to make the invisible visible, shaking us out of complacency into a new state of awareness.”
Gu entered the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as a medal favourite in freestyle skiing and emerged truly as one of the greatest of all time in her sport. She was born in the US to a Chinese mother and American father and competed for the country initially. In 2019, she started competing for China.
She is one of the most famous faces of luxury fashion brands in both the US and China and has a commanding following of over 1.6 million on Instagram as of 24 May 2022.
Talking about her fame and success, actor and an Olympic slopestyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy remarked that Gu is “still just a normal teenager who loves to ski and is excited for college—but doesn’t want to lose touch with her childhood friends.”
Kenworthy said that Gu’s exemplary success in the male-dominated world of action sports is an inspiration for the new generation of girls, especially those who are Chinese and Chinese American.
Schelling is the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and an immigrant born in South Korea.
In 2021, he was at the forefront of a major challenge to the state of Texas’ attempt at passing a record number of anti-trans bills during the year’s Legislative Sessions. The efforts of Schelling, TENT and their allies forced the government on the back foot, and they could pass only one anti-trans school sports ban bill into law.
In his essay for TIME, Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU, said that Schelling “spent day and night fighting back and building love and safety for his community.”
“When in early 2022 Governor Abbott escalated his attacks on trans youth by attempting to criminalize gender affirmation as a form of child abuse, Emmett, himself a father and trans man, again mobilized the entire state to fight back,” wrote Strangio.
“Emmett is leading a scary and grueling fight for trans survival, and we are so lucky to have him,” Strangio added.
(Main and Featured images: Eileen Gu/eileen_gu_/Instagram; Simu Liu/@SimuLiu/Instagram; Michelle Yeoh/@michelleyeoh_official/Instagram)