Asia’s Power List


Russian President Vladimir Putin may have toppled Barack Obama at the very top of the list, but China’s Xi Jinping has claimed the highest ranking among Asians (and third overall) in Forbes magazine’s latest survey of the world’s most powerful people.

Gaining six places from 2012, when he assumed the Chinese presidency, Xi ranked highly for ruling over 1.3 billion people, or nearly a fifth of the world’s population, as well as possessing a vast family fortune.

Xi’s other titles include Communist Party general secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission, giving him control over the key levers of power in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The next highest Asian on the list was Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, in 14th place, down one place from the previous year’s survey. “Despite being a communist party loyalist, Keqiang has been credited with economic liberalism and a push for reforms such as greater market access and support for smaller businesses,” Forbes said.

India’s Sonia Gandhi came next for Asia, ranked 21st as well as ninth on Forbes’ “power women” list. Gandhi ranked highly due to her leadership of the Indian National Congress party, the ruling party of the world’s second-largest population, although the business magazine noted rumors of a rift with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was ranked seven places below the political matriarch.

Another high-ranking Asian political leader, Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei came in at 23rd, down two places. Described as the supreme leader of the West Asian nation’s civil and religious business, Forbes noted that the “America-hating, nuke-hungry country’s top decision maker” had nevertheless welcomed a “supposedly more moderate” political leader, President Hassan Rouhani.

From South Korea, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was placed 32nd most powerful, down two spots from the previous year. His counterpart Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, ranked 50th, ahead of South Korean President Geun-hye Park in 52nd place.

North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un was ranked 46th, slipping two places from the previous survey. Forbes said he had replaced nearly half of the Stalinist state’s top officials since claiming the leadership in late 2011, and being aged only 30 would expect to further consolidate his power.

Despite leading the world’s third-biggest economy, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe placed only 57th, below his Chinese and Korean counterparts. While “Abenomics” has been credited with reviving the deflation-hit economy, Forbes failed to express much confidence in his future, stating: “This is Shinzo Ab’e second go as prime minister, begging the question whether or not he is destined to be another in a long line [of] Japanese leaders who can’t seem to hold on to their administration for longer than two years”.

Business Moguls

From the business sphere, Hong Kong magnate Li Ka-shing gained 30th place due to his position as “the richest man in Asia” with estimated net worth of $31 billion, up one place from the previous year’s survey. The chairman of Hutchison Whampoa, “Superman’s’ empire spans 260,000 employees in 52 countries and shares in his largest holdings jumped in the past year, adding $5.5 billion to his fortune,” Forbes said.

Australian-born U.S. media mogul Rupert Murdoch was another prominent business leader, ranking 33rd with an estimated net worth of $13.4 billion, although down seven places on the previous year’s survey.

China’s Xuedong Ding ranked 36th for his position as chairman of China Investment Corp, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with assets of approximately $575 billion.

Just two places lower, India’s Mukesh Ambani was at 38th, down one spot from 2012, for his position as the nation’s richest man with an estimated net worth of $21 billion, while his counterpart Lakshmi Mittal ranked 51st with wealth of $16 billion.

Japanese business leaders to make the list were Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, ranked 39th; Toyota Motor chief executive Akio Toyoda, ranked 44th; and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, in 45th.

Other Asian business leaders included Samsung chairman Lee Kun-Hee, ranked 41st; Terry Gou, boss of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision, in 48th; and China’s Robin Li, founder of Baidu, who was in 61st with wealth of $11 billion.

First published in 2009, Forbes’ annual survey has grown to 72, or “one person for every 100 million on the planet,” with the selection criteria based on financial resources, number of people candidates have power over, whether they have influence in more than one sphere, and how actively they wield their power.

For Asia though, the latest survey indicates the continued shift of power from West to East, and the rise of emerging economies at the expense of their developed rivals.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief