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Updated: November 4, 2010 14:43 IST

Hu Jintao pips Obama to become most powerful person: Forbes

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Chinese President Hu Jintao during a press conference in Beijing. File Photo
AP Chinese President Hu Jintao during a press conference in Beijing. File Photo

Chinese President Hu Jintao has been named the most powerful person in the world by Forbes, ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama who is ranked second among 68 people “who matter,” a list that also includes Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Ms. Gandhi ranks 9th on the Forbes 2010 list of the ’World’s Most Powerful People.’ Dr. Singh comes in at number 18.

India’s business tycoons Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata and head of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal also make the list.

Of the 6.8 billion people on the planet, Forbes’ list comprises “the 68 who matter.” The heads of state, major religious figures, entrepreneurs and outlaws on the second annual list were chosen “because, in various ways, they bend the world to their will.”

Jintao, 67, occupies the top slot for being the “paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet” and one who “exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world’s population.”

Forbes said unlike his Western counterparts, Hu, head of the world’s largest army in size, can “divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts.”

His country, which refuses to “kowtow” to US pressure to change its exchange-rate regime, recently surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy both in absolute and purchasing power terms.

China is also poised to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in 25 years.

“Creditor nation oversees world’s largest reserves at 2.65 trillion dollars -- 1.5 trillion dollars of which is in US dollar holdings,” Forbes said.

His handpicked successor, Xi Jinping, is set to assume the presidency in 2012.

Forbes said the second most powerful person in the world is Obama who has slipped in this year’s ranking after occupying the top slot last year. His Democratic Party suffered a mighty blow in the just concluded US midterm elections, with the President decisively losing support of the House of Representatives and barely holding onto the Senate, Forbes said.

“It is 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,” the publication added.

The 49-year old first African-American President of the US can however “take comfort” in the fact that he remains commander-in-chief of the 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,” Forbes said.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was not featured in Forbes’ recent list of the world’s most powerful women, is named the 9th most powerful person in the world. The 63-year old leader was 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.”

Forbes said despite her Italian birth, foreign religion and political reluctance, “Gandhi wields unequaled influence over 1.2 billion Indians.”

Crediting her for “handpicking brainy Sikh economist Manmohan Singh as prime minister,” Forbes said Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne and is grooming 40-year-old son Rahul for prime minister role.

Singh, “universally praised as India’s best prime minister since Nehru,” ranks 18th on the list.

Forbes said the soft-spoken Oxford-trained economist is “ideally trained to lead the world’s fourth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power into next decade.”

Credited with transforming India’s quasi-socialist economy into the world’s second-fastest growing, 78-year old Singh is now enjoying fruits of the free-market policies he implemented as India’s finance minister in early 1990s.

“The World Bank forecasts India’s GDP will surge 7.6 per cent in 2010, another 8 per cent in 2011; not far behind its 9 per cent forecast for China. Speaking of: Slow and steady will win the race.”

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud is ranked third, followed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (4), Pope Benedict XVI (5), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (6), UK Prime Minister David Cameron (7), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (8) and spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (39).

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the “quiet army chief now Pakistan’s de facto leader,” ranks 29th.

Forbes said 58-year old Kayani took lead on flood crisis, “controls Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency and recently demanded President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani dismiss corrupt members of their bloated 60-member cabinet.” His term was extended three years in July.

On the 31st spot is North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Even though his health appears to be fading, 68-year old Kim remains in firm control of “renegade nuclear power and its 22.7 million impoverished people.”

He keeps the world on edge with eccentric antics. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is now the Hermit Kingdom’s heir apparent.

Other world leaders making it to the list are newly elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on the 16th spot, French President Nicolas Sarkozy (19), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (20), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (24) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (41).

Among the business leaders, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ranks 10th, followed by News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch (13), Apple CEO Steve Jobs (17), Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (22), Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (33), Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (40), ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (49) and media personality Oprah Winfrey (64).

“In a clear sign of the times,” Zuckerberg ranked 10 spots higher than the executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller (50).

Coming in at the 34th spot is the 53-year old “business maharaja” Mukesh Ambani. The Reliance Industries Chairman, who has been called Asia’s richest person, also certainly likes to live like a king.

His one billion dollar 27-floor high-rise in Mumbai is the world’s most expensive private residence, Forbes said.

His petrochemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries is India’s most valuable private sector company with a market cap of USD 80 billion, accounting for nearly five per cent of India’s GDP and 15 per cent of exports.

His refinery at Jamnagar in western India can process 1.24 million barrels daily making it the world’s single largest refining complex in one location.

“Firm is setting up a joint venture in Marcellus Shale, one of the most promising gas deposit regions in the US,” Forbes added.

Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman of the world’s largest steel company ArcelorMittal, is ranked 44th on the list. London’s wealthiest resident, 60-year old Mittal is also sponsoring London’s 2012 Olympic games, paying for most of a 400-foot twisting steel tower to be named ArcelorMittal Orbit at city’s Olympic Park.

His company, which has operations in 60 countries, produces 73 million tons of steel, 8 per cent of world’s output. One out of five cars in world is made with its materials. Through his foundation, he helps groom Indian athletes for the Olympics and other championship events.

Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata ranks 61 on the list.

Calling the 72-year old “India’s best brand ambassador,”Forbes said Tata made “automotive history” last year with his ’People’s Car’, the USD 2,200 Tata Nano, world’s cheapest car.

After Nano debuted in 2008, India’s passenger car sales rose most in three years in 2009.

While environmentalists may call Nano an eco-disaster, “three Tata competitors (are) now working on Nano copycats,” Forbes said.

Pointing out that “power can be used for good or for ill,” Forbes said three criminals have also made the list this year. The world’s most wanted terrorist al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden is ranked 57.

Despite infrequent communications and persistent rumours of his death, Forbes said 53-year old bin Laden’s “symbolic power” remains undiminished.

“Impressionable youths continue to self-detonate in his name; casus belli of two US-led wars costing over one trillion dollars.”

JoaquGuzm the billionaire drug trafficker who heads Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, comes in at number 60. India’s most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar is ranked 63. Son of a police officer and now boss of Mumbai-based, 5,000-member organised crime syndicate D-Company, Dawood has been declared a global terrorist by the US, while the UN tried to freeze his assets.

“US government says he shares smuggling routes with al-Qaeda and has collaborated with both al-Qaeda and its South Asian affiliate, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which pulled off the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, possibly with Ibrahim’s help,” Forbes said.

A prime suspect in 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed 257 people and wounded 713, 54-year old Dawood is rumoured to be hiding out in Pakistan, protected by “appearance-altering plastic surgery and friends in Pakistani intelligence community.”

He is also thought to have had a hand in the 2008 terror attacks that killed 174 people in Mumbai.

“These rankings are not meant to justify or glorify these odious men. They simply reflect reality,” Forbes said.

While compiling this year’s list, Forbes said it looked at the level of influence a person has over a lot of people. For heads-of-state, it looked at population; for religious figures it measured the size of their flocks; for CEOs it counted their employees and for media figures Forbes considered the size of their audience.

Forbes also took into account financial resources.

This meant comparing GDP for political leaders, net worth for billionaires and ranking on the Forbes Global 2000 for CEOs.

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