This is 2010 list, for the updated list click Forbes 2011: World’s Most Powerful People
In the Forbes list of World’s most powerful people,UPA(Indian ruling party) chairperson Sonia Gandhi has overtaken leaders like Bill Gates, Nicolas Sarkozy, Steve Jobs to become the ninth most powerfulperson in the world. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is at 18th place. Reflecting China’s growing influence, President Hu Jintao dethroned Obama from the top spot. Even Zhou Xiaochuan, who is the governor of People’s Bank of China, also features in the Top 20.
1) Hu Jintao
Chinese President Hu Jintao, who rules over one-fifth of world’s population, has topped the list of world’s most powerful person. Jintao has been described by the magazine as a person who “unlike Western counterparts, can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts.”
2) Barack Obama
President, United States of America
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.
3) Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud
King, Saudi Arabia
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.
4) Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister, Russia
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.
5) Pope Bendict XVI
Pope, Roman Catholic Church
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.
6) Angela Merkel
7) David Cameron
Prime Minister, United Kingdom
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.
8) Ben Bernanke
Chairman, Federal Reserve
Some argue Fed’s influence is at all-time high, given size of its burgeoning balance sheet ($2.3 trillion) relative to the underlying economy ($14.3 trillion). But Bernanke’s options have waned since peak of the financial crisis. He now has essentially only one arrow left in his financial quiver: quantitative easing–in layman’s terms, “printing money.” He last employed the technique in 2008 and is widely expected to repeat the move this month.
9) Sonia Gandhi
President, Indian National Congress
Despite Italian birth, foreign religion (Roman Catholic) and political reluctance, Gandhi wields unequaled influence over 1.2 billion Indians. Recently elected to record fourth term as head of India’s ruling Congress Party, cementing status as true heiress to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty. Handpicked brainy Sikh economist Manmohan Singh (also a listee) as prime minister. Inspired choice: Singh universally praised as India’s best prime minister since Nehru. But Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne.
10) Bill Gates
Co-Chairman, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Microsoft mogul, futurist and America’s richest person has, with help from billionaire buddy Warren Buffett, convinced nearly 60 of the world’s wealthiest to sign his “Giving Pledge,” promising to donate the majority of their wealth to charity either during their lifetime or after death. He is no longer the planet’s richest person, but that’s because he’s given away $30 billion to his foundation. He is calling for “a higher sense of urgency” in AIDS vaccine development and also pushing for better tools to rate teacher performance.
11) Zhou Xiachoun
Governor, People’s Bank of China
All eyes now on governor of China’s $3.7 trillion central bank to avert all-out currency war. Zhou, overseer of world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, won’t kowtow to mounting Western pressure to revalue China’s artificially low currency and change its exchange-rate regime. Reports of a record increase in China’s reserves and a near record haul for Chinese exporters last September has increased global jitters. Conflict will take center stage at G-20 Summit in Seoul.
12) Dmitry Medvedev
Putin still pulls the puppet strings, but the junior member of Russia’s ruling tandem is finally showing signs of independence: He sacked Moscow’s powerful mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, in September after he implied Putin was a better president; announced Russia would be building Venezuela’s first nuclear power plant with anti-American ranter Hugo Chavez; awarded Kremlin’s top medal of honor to 10 Russian spies after U.S. exposed and ejected them. Hard rock music aficionado lists Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd as favorite bands.
13) Rupert Murdoch
Murdoch’s Fox News generated $700 million in operating profit in 2010, crushed the competition in ratings and may have put the Republicans over the top in the midterms. The Super Bowl, on Fox, kicked off with Bill O’Reilly interviewing the president and wound up as the most-watched TV broadcast ever. The circulation of the Wall Street Journal, already the biggest U.S. newspaper, keeps expanding while almost every other daily shrinks. Thanks to a close relationship with Apple, News Corp. became the first publisher to sell digital subscriptions on the iPad with the $30 million launch of The Daily in February.
14) Silvio Berlusconi
Prime Minister, Italy
Another year, another scandal for Italy’s Prime Minister. This spring the media and banking billionaire will go to court on charges having sex with a minor and obstructing justice to secure her release from police custody. The politician with 9 lives became Italy’s prime minister for a third time in 2008 after his predecessor lost a confidence vote and new elections were held. He started out singing on cruise ships. Eventually built fortune through Fininvest, which now has interests in media, life insurance, movie production and soccer team A.C. Milan.
15) Jean-Claude Trichet
President, European Central Bank
Oversees monetary policy for 16 countries constituting Eurozone– now world’s largest unified economy ($16.2 trillion GDP vs. $14.3 trillion for U.S.). But Trichet’s been hampered by ongoing problems with PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain). Reputation as fierce inflation-fighter damaged when he bent (rather, broke) ECB rules and bought government bonds from weakest Euro countries in the midst of Greece financial crisis in May.
16) Dilma Rouseff
Lula’s handpicked successor is taking on the reigns as Brazil’s first female president. Her victory wasn’t the slam dunk originally expected on the first round at the polls, but on October 31 she beat her opponent with 56% of the votes. Up to task: Former Marxist guerrilla was once jailed and tortured, twice divorced and recently survived lymphatic cancer. Not yet a household name, but will be soon, as Brazil gears up to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
17) Steve Jobs
In March the Apple founder made a surprise appearance at the unveiling of his iPad 2, after taking medical leave in January. Insanely creative Apple chief transforms a multibillion-dollar industry every few years. First, personal computers with Apple II, Macintosh; then film with Pixar; music (iTunes), mobile (iPhone). Now iPad is treated as messiah tablet, savior for publishing industry. Apple still sells computers, but twice as much revenue now comes from music distribution and hand-held devices. Shot past long-time rival Microsoft as world’s most valuable tech company in May.
18) Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister, India
Soft-spoken Oxford-trained economist credited with transforming India’s quasi-socialist economy into world’s second-fastest growing. Enjoying fruits of free-market policies he implemented as India’s finance minister in early 1990s. World Bank forecasts India’s GDP will surge 7.6% in 2010, another 8% in 2011; not far behind its 9% forecast for China. Speaking of: “Slow and steady will win the race.”
19) Nicolas Sarkozy
While France remains indisputably powerful–declared nuclear power, permanent member of the U.N. security council, ninth largest economy in terms of purchasing power–its diminutive president is struggling. His approval rating, affected by everything from his forced deportation of Gypsies to a series of embarrassments perpetuated by his ex-supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, is now firmly below 30%, the lowest since his he took office.
20) Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State, United States of America
Former first lady and U.S. senator has been careful not to let her international celebrity outshine that of her boss. Two now said to have excellent working relationship, so good that inside-the-beltway gossips whisper her name as a possible replacement for hapless U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in 2012. Despite fashion “sense” that leans towards pantsuits, blinding colors, now America’s most popular politician, with favorability rating nine percentage points higher than Obama’s.