The government has pumped $585 billion in stimulus funds into the economy, pushing the Shanghai Composite Index up 83 percent this year. President Obama's recent visit underscored China's growing power on the global economic stage, as he delicately balanced America's political and economic agenda. "The United States does not seek to contain China," he said in a speech. "On the contrary, the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations."
Behind the scenes, however, the Obama administration is also not too happy that China has intentionally been keeping the yuan weak in order to boost its exports, because it jeopardizes American manufacturing jobs and further bloats the already massive trade gap. In some ways, the Asian powerhouse already holds the upper hand as America's biggest foreign creditor, with $797 billion of Treasury bonds. But there's no telling how long the prosperity will last. Critics worry that China might be building an asset bubble that could ravage its banking system and have disastrous consequences for the global economy if the bubble pops.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is the rare Wall Street banker to have emerged from the financial crisis of 2008 with his reputation enhanced instead of in tatters.
Famous early in his financial career for being the protege of Travelers titan Sandy Weill -- and then for getting fired by Weill in 1998 just weeks after Travelers' historic acquisition of Citigroup -- Dimon had his revenge. He became the CEO of Bank One in 2000. Four years later, Dimon continued his return to prominence, becoming president and chief operating officer of JPMorgan Chase after it acquired Bank One. Eventually, he was named JP Morgan's CEO.
But it was last year that the 53-year-old Dimon took center stage. First, with government help, he orchestrated the emergency acquisition of Bear Stearns for what eventually turned out to be $10 a share when it appeared Bear was going under. ("There is a difference between buying a house and buying a house on fire," Dimon famously quipped to television interviewer Charlie Rose after a question on why JP Morgan paid so little.) Later, Dimon emerged again to rescue Washington Mutual, snapping up the ailing commercial bank for $1.9 billion.
Dimon's performance during the crisis even caught the attention of President Obama, who praised him for "doing a pretty good job." Obama was so impressed, apparently, that rumors have now surfaced pointing to Dimon as a possible successor to Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.
Ken Lewis sits at the helm of Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the country that owes much of its growth to Lewis himself. But in September, Lewis announced that he would retire as CEO at the end of the year.
Bank of America's CEO since 2001, Lewis joined the bank in 1969 and rose through the ranks, orchestrating a number of acquisitions along the way.