Chinese President Xi Jinping China
Chinese President, Xi Jinping, last year emerged the World’s Most Powerful Person according to the 2018 Forbes The World’s 75 Most Powerful People ranking released last year.
Under his administration, China’s Congress amended its constitution in March, broadening Xi’s influence and eliminating term limits, thereby giving him life presidency.
Xi (born 15 June 1953) is a Chinese politician serving as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), president of the People’s Republic of China, and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Often described as China’s “paramount leader”, in 2016 the CPC officially gave him the title of “core leader”. As general secretary, Xi holds an ex-officio seat on the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, China’s top decision-making body. Xi is the first general secretary born after the Second World War and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
The son of Chinese Communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, he was exiled to rural Yanchuan County as a teenager following his father’s purge during the Cultural Revolution, and lived in a cave in the village of Liangjiahe, where he organised communal labourers. After studying at the Tsinghua University as a “Worker-Peasant-Soldier Student”, Xi rose through the ranks politically in China’s coastal provinces.
Xi was governor of Fujian province from 1999 to 2002, and governor, then party secretary of neighbouring Zhejiang province from 2002 to 2007.
Since assuming power, Xi has introduced far-ranging measures to enforce party discipline and to ensure internal unity. His signature anti-corruption campaign has led to the downfall of prominent incumbent and retired Communist Party officials, including members of the Politburo Standing Committee.
Described as a Chinese nationalist, he has tightened restrictions over civil society and ideological discourse, advocating Internet censorship in China as the concept of “internet sovereignty”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
After being unseated by his Chinese counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped to number two in the Forbes magazine’s list of The World’s Most Powerful People in 2018.
Putin dominated the Forbes magazine’s list of The World’s Most Powerful People for too long after becoming the most powerful leader in the world for four consecutive years (between 2013 and 2016).
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (born 7 October 1952) is a Russian politician and former intelligence officer serving as President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. In between his presidential terms he was also the Prime Minister of Russia under his close associate Dmitry Medvedev.
Putin was born in Leningrad during the Soviet Union. He studied law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975. Putin was a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before resigning in 1991 to enter politics in Saint Petersburg.
He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin’s administration, rising quickly through the ranks and becoming Acting President on 31 December 1999, when Yeltsin resigned. During his first presidency, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, and GDP measured in purchasing power increased by 72 percent.
The growth was a result of the 2000s commodities boom, recovery from the post-Communist depression, financial crises, prudent economic and fiscal policies.
In September 2011, Putin announced he would seek a third term as president. He won the March 2012 presidential election with 64 percent of the vote.
Falling oil prices coupled with international sanctions imposed at the beginning of 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine led to GDP shrinking by 3.7 percent in 2015, though the Russian economy rebounded in 2016 with 0.3 percent GDP growth and is officially out of the recession.
Putin gained 76 percent of the March 2018 presidential vote and was re-elected for a six-year term that will end in 2024.
United States President Donald Trump
Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality.
Trump was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens and received an economics degree from the Wharton School.
He was appointed president of his family’s real estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded it from Queens and Brooklyn into Manhattan. The company built or renovated skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses.
Trump later started various side ventures, including licensing his name for real estate and consumer products. He managed the company until his 2017 inauguration. He co-authored several books, including The Art of the Deal.
He owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015, and he produced and hosted The Apprentice, a reality television show, from 2003 to 2015.
Forbes estimates his net worth to be $3.1 billion. Trump entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and defeated sixteen opponents in the primaries.
Commentators described his political positions as populist, protectionist, and nationalist. His campaign received extensive free media coverage; many of his public statements were controversial or false.
Trump was elected president in a surprise victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel (born 17 July 1954) is a German politician serving as Chancellor of Germany since 2005.
She served as the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 2000 to 2018. Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union, the most powerful woman in the world, and by many commentators as the leader of the Free World.
Merkel was born in Hamburg in then-West Germany and moved to East Germany as an infant when her father, a Lutheran clergyman, received a pastorate in Perleberg. She obtained a doctorate in quantum chemistry in 1986 and worked as a research scientist until 1989.
Merkel entered politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, and briefly served as a deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected East German Government headed by Lothar de Maizière in 1990.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Narendra Damodardas Modi (born 17 September 1950) is an Indian politician serving as the 14th and current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi.
Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Born to a Gujarati family in Vadnagar, Modi helped his father sell tea as a child and later ran his own stall.
He was introduced to the RSS at the age of eight, beginning a long association with the organisation. He left home after graduating from school, partly because of an arranged marriage which he rejected.
Modi travelled around India for two years and visited a number of religious centres. He returned to Gujarat and moved to Ahmedabad in 1969 or 1970.
In 1971 he became a full-time worker for the RSS. During the state of emergency imposed across the country in 1975, Modi was forced to go into hiding.
The RSS assigned him to the BJP in 1985, and he held several positions within the party hierarchy until 2001, rising to the rank of General Secretary.
Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, due to Keshubhai Patel’s failing health and poor public image following the earthquake in Bhuj. Modi was elected to the legislative assembly soon after.
British Prime Minister Theresa May
Theresa Mary May (born 1 October 1956) is a British politician serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2016.
She served as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016. May was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidenhead in 1997. Ideologically, she identifies herself as a one-nation conservative. In 2018, May was ranked second most powerful woman in the world, trailing behind the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
May grew up in Oxfordshire and attended St Hugh’s College, Oxford. From 1977 until 1983, she worked for the Bank of England and from 1985 until 1997 at the Association for Payment Clearing Services, also serving as a councillor for Durnsford in Merton. In July 2016, following the resignation of David Cameron, May was elected unopposed as Conservative Party Leader, becoming the second female Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher.
As Prime Minister, May began the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union, triggering Article 50 in March 2017 then, the following month, announcing a snap general election in June, with the aim of strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations.
This resulted in a hung parliament, in which the number of Conservative seats fell from 330 to 317, despite the party winning their highest vote share since 1983, prompting her to broker a confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support a minority government. May is currently orchestrating the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, adhering to the Chequers Agreement, agreed in 2018.
On 12 December 2018, 48 Conservative MPs had submitted letters of no confidence to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, triggering a vote of no confidence in her leadership. Before the vote, May said later that day that she would not lead her party in the next general election scheduled in 2022 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. She won the motion, with 200 Conservative MPs voting to support her leadership, while 117 voted against her.