Friday 5 November 2010

Forbes Magazine: The most powerful man on the planet

I was listening to the news on Radio France International at noon today and they were talking about the Chinese president Hu Jin Tao being welcomed in France by Nicolas Sarkozy for a 3 day visit. My ears pricked up because they called Hu Jin Tao the most powerful man in the world. Pardon?

On November 3, 2010, Forbes magazine released its list of the 68 most powerful people on the planet. According to their explanation of the selection process, these are people who "bend the world to their will". They may be heads of state, religious figures, entrepreneurs or even criminals but whatever the case, they have power and they use it.

Forbes looked at 4 criteria. First of all, do they influence over a lot of people? For a politician, this involves population, for religious figures, this involves the "size of their flocks" and for CEOs, this involves the number of employees. Second, do they have significant financial resources? For heads of state, they looked at a country's GDP and for CEOs; they looked at net worth of the company. Third, are they powerful in more than one area? They gave as an example how Silvio Berlusconi may be the prime minister of Italy but he is also a billionaire media mogul and owns a soccer team. Finally, do they actively wield their power?

As I go down the list, I see mostly heads of state in the top spots:
  1. Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China
  2. Barack Obama, President of the United States
  3. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, king of Saudi Arabia
  4. Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia
  5. Pope Benedict, Roma Catholic Church
  6. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
  7. David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain
  8. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve
  9. Sonia Gandhi, President of the India National Congress
  10. Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

You will note that Bill Gates shows up not associated with Microsoft but associated with his charitable foundation.

Other technology people include Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple as #17, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google at #22 and #23 and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook at #40.

Oprah Winfrey labelled as a "media personality" comes in at #64.

Criminals also made the list. Osama Bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda is at position #57. Joaquín Guzmán, the billionaire drug trafficker who heads Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel is ranked #60. Finally Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar is at #63. This man runs a vast criminal enterprise in India and who is thought to have a hand in the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai which killed 174. Forbes explains, "These rankings are not meant to justify or glorify these odious men. They simply reflect reality."

Speaking of "criminals", I note that Kim Jong-Il, "supreme leader" of North Korea comes in at #31. Yes, considering the headlines over the past year or so with all the kerfuffle about the development of nuclear weapons, yes indeed, there's somebody who's wielding power; maybe not good power, but power nonetheless.

So, we see the Chinese president at the first spot with the U.S. president Barack Obama at number two. Is this a sign of the times? Is this sign of the future? I found a report from Bloomberg News dated Aug 10/2010  which states that China's gross domestic product has surpassed that of Japan which now makes China the world's 2nd largest economy after the United States. Let's not forget that China with an estimated population of 1.4 billion makes it the most populous country in the world. Imagine if we take the total population right now as being around 6.8 billion, China alone represents 21% of the world's population!

As a cultural reference to some science films I have seen, like Johnny Mnemonic, Blade Runner and The Matrix, there are scenes which show the Chinese language on display either on signs, billboards or computer screens. Obviously somebody has looked at the population of China, done the math pushing figures into the future and determined the global influence of the Chinese culture and language can only go up. These headlines about China's position in the world seem to be a realisation of what story tellers and film makers have been telling us for years.


Forbes: picture gallery of the most powerful

Forbes: complete list


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