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Architects of change – the people shaping Asia's future

Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister.

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1. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, Japan

Time Magazine ranks him in their list of the world's 100 most influential people and he's number 57 on Forbes' list of most powerful people. So just how is Shinzo Abe shaping Japan's future?

For starters, Abe has raised the game for world's number three economy – stuck in a rut for years thanks to deflation.

Armed with a rare mandate to rule with a majority in both houses of parliament – something no Japanese prime minister has enjoyed since 2006 – Abe is determined to turn around Japan's fortunes after years of deflation and weak economic growth.

The economy has received a heavy dose of monetary and fiscal stimulus and early signs suggest it will weather the impact of a rise in the consumption tax in April.

In April, Japan hosted the first official state visit by a U.S. President in 18 years and last year Abe took a gamble in backing Tokyo's plans to host the 2020 Olympic Games – a bid Japan's capital city won.

Critics say Abe has yet to deliver on long-term structural reforms, with key measures such as an overseas trade pact yet to be sealed. He's also come under fire for a visit to the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo.

Whether he fails or succeeds, there's little doubt that Abe will leave his mark on Japan for some time.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images