Relevance, Resonance, and Meaning: What It Means to Be Influential in the New Asia
To be influential today means many new things. There are platforms, channels, and audiences to consider. Social capital is denominated in currencies that the world could never have imagined before.
To be influential today no longer means just to be powerful or successful in one’s particular field of work or art. The concept of influence has reformulated itself to include the power of one’s image and one’s life as seen and performed in spaces both physical and digital.
To this, we wish to add the power of social relevance and personal resonance. We wish to acknowledge the tides of the times and recognize the overwhelming need—especially for those of us are led by those with influence—to hear an uplifting voice and feel an empowering spirit.
It is important to distinguish those possessed of this voice and this spirit from those who are merely financially or politically powerful, or simply overwhelmingly popular. As times change and our values are sharpened, the very definition of influence must be made clearer and more meaningful. We subscribe to their views because ours mirror theirs. We cheer them on because their achievements reflect our dreams. We follow the work they do or the lives they lead because their vision holds our welfare in consideration.
These men and women, therefore, are not here merely because they sparked trends or amplified them, or because they drew huge, admiring audiences with the spectacle of themselves. They are here because they have crossed borders of thought and sentiment: they have asked the most difficult questions and changed the most obstinate minds. They have presented new ways of seeing things and doing things. And they have led followers, citizens, and the rest of humanity in confronting the uncertain new realities we have had to face inside and outside of our households and our digital feeds.
This year’s list of Tatler’s Most Influential Asians also paints a picture of the region in the middle of times that are by turns chaotic, uncertain, or ripe with opportunity and possibility. This is a large part of the reason why we must risk redefining the idea of influence, and going further, position it decisively in the perspective of Asia against the context of the world at large.
These are people whose lives and deeds tell us of what we need: leadership that looks after our culture and our values, uncommon genius and strength for us to follow or find in ourselves, determined minds that will awaken us to the possibilities of a future where there is less shade and more shining hope.— Angelo R. Lacuesta
This is why those on our list are masters who have redefined their game. William Wongso, the indisputable godfather of Indonesian cuisine, has presented his nation’s food as an indelible, incredible part of its identity and its spirit of innovation. Klook CEO Eric Gnock Fah has made Asian travel a seamless journey that begins in digital and ends in an exciting destination. Malaysian athletes Cheah Liek Hou, Abdul Latif Romly, Bonnie Bunyau Gustin broke expectations when they took home gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Chong Siak Ching, Chief Executive of the National Gallery of Singapore, refined the idea of the Gallery as a place for healing and therapeutic inspiration amid the pandemic, and as a digital experience that embraces diversity and inclusivity.
We proudly proclaim the ascendancy of those whose visionary and courageous work has held the world in thrall. Audrey Tang, a software pioneer, is digital minister of Taiwan—and the first transgender and nonbinary official in the cabinet. Maria Ressa is a journalist whose powerful, passionate voice of truth has won her the Nobel Prize for Peace—the Philippines’ very first Nobel in history.
These are people whose lives and deeds tell us of what we need: leadership that looks after our culture and our values, uncommon genius and strength for us to follow or find in ourselves, determined minds that will awaken us to the possibilities of a future where there is less shade and more shining hope.
For our part we have recognised that, in creating such lists, we must employ great care and responsibility for humanity and for the truth.— Angelo R. Lacuesta
While many of the individuals in our list have been longtime industrialists, creative forces, and thought leaders, many others gained prominence as persons of consequence during the last two challenging years—arguably some the most difficult years in our recent history.
They have helped our government and our economy survive the ongoing stress and strain of a global pandemic. They have shone a light of positive inspiration that has encouraged millions of minds and hearts to count and embrace the positive and the affirming. They have made us see that there is a way forward, through our most uncertain realities. Indeed, they themselves have helped provide the very redefinition of influence as something always socially situated and engaged.
In conceiving this year’s roster, we have also realised how powerfully influential such lists can be by themselves. For our part we have recognised that, in creating such lists, we must employ great care and responsibility for humanity and for the truth. After all, these names and personages, and the ideas they stand for, have not only shaped how fellow leaders and citizens have thought and acted for themselves and others—they will also continue to play a part in our path forward.
In this manner, these business titans, thought leaders, creative forces, political voices, and engaging personalities also come together in these pages, across different fields, areas of engagement, and even political schools of thought, to create the face and identity of an Asia that is varied, visionary, and vital: driven by purpose and principle, determined to push boundaries and pull through obstacles, and proud of what we can and will do.