China Leaders on Power List Signals Asia's Growing Clout: Forbes

Xi Jinping
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China's new leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang do not officially assume their new posts until next March, but they're already on Forbes' Most Powerful People list. This may signal the growing clout of Asia's political figures in global affairs, according to the magazine's publisher Steve Forbes.

Incoming Chinese president Xi and premier Li are number 9and 13, respectively, on the magazine's annual list of the world's most powerful people based on factors such as wealth and global influence. U.S.President Barack Obama tops the list.

And while Asia's two largest economies, China and Japan, have stalled lately, the region's growth remains very much intact, Forbes told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box" on Thursday, explaining why Asian leaders are high upon its most powerful list.

"There's been a few blips from time to time but that (Asia) clearly is a more dynamic part of the world, even today, than North America and Western Europe," Forbes said. "Compared to the rest of the world, Asia still looks very strong."

China, the world's second-biggest economy, underwent a once-in-a-decade transition in November, when a generation of new leaders including Xi and Li are ushered into power.

(Read more: Special Report - Changing China)

They will steer China through the next 10 years, during which the economy is expected to expand by an average of 8 percent a year after growing about 10 percent annually over the past decade, according to Barclays.

In line with this economic expansion, China is now home to the world's second-largest population of billionaires, with 147 of them having about $380 billion, according to research firm Wealth-X.

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Other Asians on the list of the world's 71 most-powerful people include India's Sonia Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress,one of the country's biggest political parties and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They both moved one spot lower to the 12th and 20th position, respectively.

This move reflects the difficulties surrounding the Indian economy, which is battling both a budget and trade deficit. The inability of political leaders to push through reforms is also seen as a stumbling block to the economy's recovery.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, has moved up the ranks to number 30 from number 38 last year and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, chairman of shipping-to-telecoms conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, ranks 31, up from 39.

The highest-ranking Japanese are Masaaki Shirakawa, governor of Bank of Japan, and Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota Motor. They are in the 40th and 43rd spots, down from rankings in the 30s.

Shirakawa has to manage the monetary policy of Japan at a time when the economy appears to be on the verge of another recession this year. Toyota in the meantime had to issue multiple waves of recalls, affecting millions of vehicles worldwide, the magazine said.

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Obama was joined in the top 10 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

While political officials make up the majority of the list, business figures also figure prominently, Forbes said.

Carlos Slim, chairman of Mexican conglomerate America Movil is number 11 and Warren Buffett, Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway is number 15. CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Michael Duke is number 17 and theco-founders of Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page are tied at number 20.

An inclusion that raised eyebrows was Joaquin Guzman Loera, who is number 63. Loera, nicknamed "El Chapo", is head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel and is the world's most powerful drug trafficker, according to the magazine.

"(He's included) precisely because he runs a large criminal enterprise," Forbes told CNBC. "Mexico has made a lot of progress against the cartels as Colombia did 15, 20 years ago but they still haven't wiped them out.We will see if the new president of Mexico (Enrique Pea Nieto) continues to try to cut them down to size and put the government truly in charge of Mexico again."

Age was also no barrier to achieving power. The youngest on the list is 28-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, the oldest is 81-year-old Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp. They are in the 25th and 26th spots, respectively.

Forbes noted that Zuckerberg fell out of last year's top 10 after Facebook's IPO earlier this year disappointed.

Falling off the list were China's President Hu Jintao, last year's third most-powerful person, who is leaving his post, and both U.S.Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who have stated they will not be serving in Obama's second term.