Thursday, August 4, 2011

7 Most Powerful People in the World

1.Hu Jintao


Age: 68
Title: President
Organization: People’s Republic of China
Residence: Beijing, China
Country of citizenship: China
Marital Status: Married
Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world’s population. Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts. Recently surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy both in absolute and purchasing power terms. Credible estimates have China poised to overtake U.S. as world’s largest economy in 25 years–although, crucially, not on a per-capita basis. Creditor nation oversees world’s largest reserves at $2.65 trillion–$1.5 trillion of which is in U.S. dollar holdings. Refuses to kowtow to U.S. pressure to change its exchange-rate regime. Heads world’s largest army (in size). His handpicked successor, Xi Jinping, set to assume the presidency in 2012.

2.Barack Obama


Age: 49
Title: President
Organization: United States of America
Residence: Washington, DC
Country of citizenship: United States
Marital Status: Married
Children: 2
Obama’s Democrats suffered a mighty blow in U.S. midterm elections, with the president decisively losing support of the House of Representatives, and barely holding onto the Senate. It’s quite a come-down for last year’s most powerful person, who after enacting widespread reforms in his first two years in office will be hard-pressed to implement his agenda in the next two. He can take comfort in the fact that he remains commander-in-chief of world’s largest, deadliest military, leader of world’s largest (in spending) and most dynamic economy and holds the unofficial title of “Leader of the Free World.”

3. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud


Age: 86
Title: King
Organization: Saudi Arabia
Residence: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Country of citizenship: Saudi Arabia
Marital Status: Married
Absolute ruler of desert kingdom that contains the world’s largest crude oil reserves, two holiest sites in Islam. State-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco has reserves of 266 billion barrels, or one-fifth of planet’s known supply (worth $22 trillion at today’s oil prices). Pushing for gradual social and legal reforms, while maintaining good relations with deeply conservative religious establishment. Ultimate succession unclear: 86-year-old king’s official heir is 82-year-old Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. Established committee of senior princes to ensure smooth transition in the event both become incapacitated.

4. Vladimir Putin


Age: 58
Title: Prime Minister
Organization: Russia
Residence: Moscow, Russia
Country of citizenship: Russia
Marital Status: Married
Prime Minister still more powerful than his handpicked head-of-state, President Dmitry Medvedev. Former KGB officer will likely replace protégé in 2012. In the meantime, has final say over one-ninth of Earth’s land area, vast energy and mineral resources. Declared nuclear power has veto on U.N.’s Security Council. Russian government agency reported to have already registered web address Putin-2012.rf. On running again: “The president of the United States, Roosevelt, was elected four times in a row because it did not contradict the American Constitution” (September 201o).

5. Pope Benedict XVI


Age: 83
Title: Pope
Organization: Roman Catholic Church
Residence: Vatican City
Country of citizenship: Germany
Marital Status: Single
Highest earthly authority for 1.1 billion souls, or one-sixth of world’s population. Staunch traditionalist deplores secularism, consumerism and moral relativism, unbending on birth control, gay marriage and ordination of female priests. Despite major gaffes (including lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying Bishop and quoting a 14th-century source that declared the only new things the prophet Mohammed brought were “evil and inhuman”), appears genuinely interested in healing old wounds. In September, not only became the first Pope to visit Westminster Abbey since the Protestant Reformation, but also shook hands with a clergywoman (another first). Widening sexual abuse scandal could undermine moral authority, but increasingly willing to tackle issue head on: “Forgiveness does not substitute for justice.” Stylish: Has brought back traditional red, custom-made “pope shoes” and old-school Ecclesiastical headgear.

6. Angela Merkel


Age: 56
Title: Chancellor
Organization: Germany
Residence: Berlin, Germany
Country of citizenship: Germany
Marital Status: Married
Most powerful woman on the planet. Chancellor of Germany oversees Europe’s largest economy. Renowned free-market champion and favorite of big business, boasts nine public companies with annual sales in excess of $70 billion. In all, there are 57 German companies on the Forbes Global 2000 ranking of the world’s largest public companies, with aggregate sales of $1.7 trillion.

7. David Cameron

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Age: 44
Title: Prime Minister
Organization: United Kingdom
Residence: London, United Kingdom
Country of citizenship: United Kingdom
Marital Status: Married
Youngest British prime minister in 198 years is product of privilege: Eton, Brasenose College, Oxford; is descended (illegitimately) from King William IV. Hailed by some as the second coming of Margaret Thatcher, Cameron shares the Iron Lady’s determination to slash government expenditures (defense, higher education), but as the leader of a coalition government he can ill-afford to repeat her brash divisiveness.

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