APEC Look back: Where were 2015 APEC world leaders in 1996?

Jodesz Gavilan
APEC Look back: Where were 2015 APEC world leaders in 1996?
Rappler lists what the heads of state of APEC member-economies were doing back when the Philippines first hosted the high-level meetings in 1996

MANILA, Philippines – Leaders from several countries will converge in the Philippines next week to attend the concluding event of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit or the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

From 18, APEC now has grown to 21 member-economies and their respective leaders are expected to join the meetings next week – except Indonesia’s Joko Widodo and Russia’s Vladimir Putin who will be sending representatives. But where were these current heads of state when the country first hosted the APEC Summit in 1996?

Rappler looks back on the lives – private, political, and military, among others – of the high profile leaders who are set to achieve inclusive growth for a better world.


BANKER. Malcolm Turnbull on the cover of the Sydney Morning Herald Magazine's Good Weekend in 1991 as a young banker. Photo from Stopturnbull.com

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

In 1996, Malcolm Turnbull was in his 3rd year as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement while working in his investment banking firm, Turnbull & Partners Ltd. 

In 1997, Turnbull proceeded to become managing director and later partner of multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs.

SECOND TIME. Sultan Bolkiah arrives in Subic in 1996. Photo from Subic Bay website

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Brunei Darussalam

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah attended the 1996 APEC Summit in the Philippines.

Bolkiah, who ascended in 1967 after his father abdicated from the throne, was in his 29th year as Sultan of Brunei and 12th year as self-appointed Prime Minister.

It was also in 1996 when the Sultan of Brunei threw a lavish party – complete with celebrity guests like Michael Jackson – for his 50th birthday.

YOUNG. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the early 2000s. Photo from the University of Winnipeg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

In 1996, 25-year-old Justin Trudeau was studying to be a teacher at the University of British Columbia two years after graduating from McGill University with a BA in English Literature.

According to his website, his decision to pursue education was a “way of having a positive influence in the world.”

MAYOR. Michelle Bachelete in 1996 while campaigning to be mayor of a wealthy town in Chile. Photo from Chile Gov't Website

President Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet, who was in her 3rd year as Senior Assistant to the Deputy Health Minister, ran for mayor of the weathly area of Las Condes but lost to Joaquin Lavin in 1996.

She also started her military strategy studies at the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies in Chile that same year.

START. Leung Chun-ying sits down in a meeting of the Hong Kong SAR Organizing Committee in 1996. Photo from HK Basic Law Website

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying
Hong Kong

Leung Chun-ying was Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Preparatory Committee.

The latter part of 1996 saw him take the position as member of the Provincial LegislativeCouncil of Hong Kong – the interim legislature of the region from 1997 to 1998.

SMALL SCALE. Joko Widodo started his political career as a town mayor. Photo from World's Mayors

President Joko Widodo

In 1996, Joko Widodo was in his last year as Head of Mining and Energy, Surakarta Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Indonesian President served in the said chamber from 1992 to 1996.

PROVINCIAL. President Xi Jinping (middle) inspects a factory in 1996. Photo from Fujian Wugang Group Website

President Xi Jinping

In 1996, President Xi Jinping was the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Fujian Provincial Committee.

He was also serving as the 1st Political Commissioner of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Reserve Division of Provincial Military Area Command.

FIRST DAY. Japanese Prime Minister Shinz? Abe in his first day as part of the House of Representatives - a post he held until the early 2000s. Photo from Abe's Official Website

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe

Shinzō Abe was in his 3rd year as Member of the House of Representatives in the 1st district of Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1996.

Abe, the youngest post-war prime minister of Japan, was first elected into public office in 1993 and eventually became prime minister first in 2006 and second in 2012.

DEFENSE TO EDUCATION. Malaysian Minister for Education Najib Razak attends an official activity in 1996. Photo from Ministry for Education website

Prime Minister Najib Razak

1996 marked the 2nd year of Najib Razak as Minister for Education of Malaysia. He previously served as Minister for Defense from 1991 to 1995.

Under his term as Minister for Education, the 1996 Private Higher Education Institutions Act was enacted which paved the way for foreign universities to start schools in Malaysia.

 Razak became Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2009.

TOGETHER. President Enrique Peña Nieto pictured in early 2000s with his uncle Arturo Montiel Rojas who he worked with during the late 1990s. Photo from Peña Nieto biography

President Enrique Peña Nieto

In 1996, Enrique Peña Nieto was Chief of Staff for the State of Mexico’s Secretary of Economic Development of the State of Mexico.

In the same year, he closely worked with his uncle, Secretary of Economic Development Arturo Montiel Rojas.

In 2005, Peña Nieto became the governor of the State of Mexico and was eventually elected to the presidency in 2012. 

ROOTS. John Key as a young banker in the early 1990s. Photo from NZonScreen

President John Key
New Zealand

John Key was on his 2nd year as Head of Global Foreign Exchange of wealth management firm Merrill Lynch in 1996. He first joined the firm as Head of Asian foreign exchange based in Singapore.

Key assumed office in 2008 after spending 7 years in parliament.

PRIVATE. Peter O'Neill (pictured in late 2000s) leads a private life as a businessman before entering politics in 2002. Photo from Wikicommons


Prime Minister Peter O’Neill
Papua New Guinea

Peter O’Neill was living a private life as a businessman in 1996. He would enter politics through parliament 6 years later in 2002.

Before being sworn in as the 9th Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, O’Neill spent a few months as the Minister of Finance. 

ARMY MAN. Ollanta Humala (center) spends most of 1990s as part of military forces. Photo from New Generation's Voice website

President Ollanta Humala

Ollanta Humala was at the height of his military career in 1996.

The previous year saw him serving in the Cenepa War, a short battle over territory control on the northwestern edge of Peru, against Ecuador.

In 2006, Humala ran for president but lost. He was eventually elected president in 2011. 

PRIVATE TO PUBLIC. President Benigno Aquino III was an employee of their family business before joining Congress (pictured). Photo from Congress Website

President Benigno Aquino III

Benigno Aquino III was in his final year as executive assistant in the Cojuangco-owned Central Azucarera de Tarlac in Hacienda Luisita in 1996. He later worked as manager for field services for the sugar refinery.

In 1998, he entered public service after being elected as Tarlac’s 2nd district representative.

Aquino later became part of the two houses of Congress and eventually Philippine president in 2010.

GOING UP THE RANKS. Vladimir Putin (L) in the late 1990s. Photo from Putin's biography

President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, in 1996, moved to Moscow and worked as the Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department of Russia.

He was previously Deputy Chairman of the St Petersburg City Government.

BEFORE LEADING. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the late 1990s. Photo from Singapore Government

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Lee Hsien Loong was in his 6th year as Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore in 1996. 

The first son of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kwan Yew, he also served as Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister for Finance.

He became prime minister in 2004.

PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER. Park Geun-hye works with her political party after leaving the private life in 1998. Photo from Park's Official Website

President Park Geun-hye
South Korea

Park Geun-hye headed educational and cultural foundations after her father’s death and even until 1996.

Two years later, in 1998, she ran and won with a huge margin as representative of the Dalseong district to the National Assembly under the conservative Grand National Party.

RETURN TO POLITICS. A recent photo of President Ma Ying-jeou. Photo from Ma Ying-jeou's profile

President Ma Ying-jeou
Chinese Taipei

In 1996, Ma Ying-jeou was relieved of his post as Minister of Justice after serving 3 years.

He returned to academia but eventually ran and won as Taipei Mayor in 1998.

He held the position for 9 years before being elected president in 2008.

ROYAL GUARD. Recent photo of Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-o-cha who spent most of the 1990s in the military. Photo from Chan-o-cha's website

Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-O-cha

Prayut Chan-o-cha, former Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, was part of the 21st Infantry Regiment in 1996. The said infantry enjoyed the status of Royal Guards.

Prior to being the 29th Prime Minister of Thailand in 2014, Prayut served as the Royal Thai Army chief of staff for two years.

He was appointed honorary adjutant to the king in 2009 before eventually becoming the commander-in-chief a year later. 

Photo from Illinois Senate Website

President Barack Obama
United States of America

He also was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and counsel of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a law firm focused on the rights and development of the marginalized.

In 1996, Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate, representing the state’s 13th district.

LOYAL. Truong Tan Sang with Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of People's Army of Vietnam, in early 2000s. Photo from Vo Nguyen Giap's biography

President Truong Tan Sang

Truong Tan Sang was in his final year as Chairperson of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee in 1996. He moved to being Secretary of the committee in the same year.


– Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.