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Zhou Xiaochuan

Zhou Xiaochuan has been the governor of China's central bank — the People's Bank of China (PBOC) — for nearly 10 years.

As head of the central bank, Zhou has emerged as a powerful player in steering the world's second largest economy. In 2005, the central bank played a major role in gaining consensus among the Communist Party to implement the landmark revaluation of the local currency — the yuan. The PBOC was also the key force behind the Chinese government's decision to end a two-year peg to the U.S. dollar in 2010, which was introduced to help the country deal with the global financial crisis. Zhou made headlines in March 2009 by proposing to replace the U.S dollar as the world's main reserve currency with a beefed-up version of the Special Drawing Right (SDR), the International Monetary Fund's unit of account.

Last year, Zhou, 64, was ranked as the 15th most powerful person in the world by Forbes, one spot ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was also named "Central Bank Governor of the Year," by business magazine Euromoney in 2011 for his efforts to open China up to greater international trade and investment. Local reports suggest Zhou is set to retire from his role as governor of the central bank next year as he turns 65 in January and a new candidate will be picked to head the PBOC. But, he may later become a senior government advisor.

Photo: Getty Images