Nearing the end of 2022, an extremely volatile year that reminded us that most things can not be taken for granted, it is time to look back and assess. Who are the world’s most influential figures? Who holds the power and the wealth? Who are the decision-makers? Who are the people shaping the future, our future?
Now in its second year, Who Rules the World (WRTW) is the first of its kind, a more meaningful and richer ranking system based on the often-neglected fact that it takes more than just wealth to make a major world player.
We bring together over 100 names with detailed data points, allowing WRTW to paint a multi-dimensional picture of power. Each person is given a score in each of three key ‘Concepts of Power’: The first concept is Wealth, and we take into account an individual’s personal wealth, as well the wealth they control indirectly. The next concept is Power, illustrating how much a person can impact others’ lives, make a difference on a grand scale. The final concept is Influence – a word we’ve all come to use more and more – which considers the extent to which a person might sway opinions and views, based on metrics like reach, monthly searches, overall ‘influenced’ users, and personal, company and country search results.
The interactive ranking list also includes the state, company or country of the person in question, and it subdivides individuals into five main sectors: Business, Politics, Entertainment, Sport and Media.
How is power distributed geopolitically?
- North America is the primary geopolitical force in the world, both economically and politically.
- The only two other countries that come close in terms of entity wealth and population are India and China. Their status in our Index is primarily influenced by population, as both have over 1.3 billion inhabitants.
- Some of the key leaders that took the first 20 spots in the new WRTW index earned their spot due to the wealth of their country or company. For example Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft whose personal net worth of around 300 mil USD doesn’t even come close to the whopping $2135 billion which is the current net worth of Microsoft. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India together with the president of USA Joe Biden is in the top due to their countries’ GDPs and population.
- Although the ability to shape current events has probably never been more important, it is safe to say that, when it comes to the largest companies and countries, the prevailing factor still is the monetary power of the entity.
While the US is currently still the country with the most clout, examining how China is rising in our Index as well as in the world is a worthwhile analysis - that of rapid economic development, population growth, natural resources and constantly growing international attention.
USA - As a globally dominant military and economic power, USA’s representatives inarguably earned top spots in the new WRTW Index. With the world’s highest GDP (see Picture 1.) and power index score of 0.0453 determined by both military power and financials as well as logical capabilities and geography (source: GlobalFirepower), USA remains ahead of the game.
The personal level
Being at the helm of the world’s biggest economy certainly helps, and it’s this that secured the top spot for US president Joe Biden. Biden’s leadership through much of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in some serious column inches, and since March of this year his popularity and prominence have been bolstered by NATO’s stand against Russia’s war on Ukraine, which it’s safe to say explains his rise from second position last year.
China - As the only country that could compete with the USA in economic terms, China comes second both with its GDP as with its PPP or Purchasing Power Parity. The latter one is used to compare economies in terms of costs of living and purchasing power of currencies (source: StatisticsTimes.com). With a second highest GDP of over 14 trillion USD, its representatives rank in the Top 10 and its Entity wealth comes second overall.
The personal level
A role as the ruler of the world’s second-largest economy saw Chinese president Xi Jinping maintain a position in the middle of the top ten. Jinping is in charge of China’s only political party (the Chinese Communist Party) as well as the world’s largest army. Plus recent changes to Chinese law give him the chance to stick around longer and widen his reach too. The highest new entry is China’s most senior civil servant, Li Keqiang, who comes in at number 5. Broader media coverage and rumors of him taking over the country’s economic policy may explain his dramatic leap into the top ten.
Beyond the top ten, the prominence of global events – particularly in Europe – have produced interesting movements in the politicians’ rankings. For instance, German chancellor Olaf Sholz and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans made an appearance for the first time. Olaf Sholz, Angela Merkel’s successor and the new leader of one of the strongest European economies took an oath of office in December 2021, marking the beginning of a new era for Germany. Meritously, Frans Timmermans, as EU’s Number one climate commissioner with an agenda to make Europe more climate neutral was undeniably given a spot in our new WRTW 2022 Index.
But not all politicians are on the up and up: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi’s position fell due to his part in India’s diplomatic clashes.
Business and Media’s big winners and big losers
The biggest of the tech players dominate the top ten. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin found themselves in the second and fourth positions respectively, thanks to a net worth increase of 43% since 2021, which is down to the growth of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. However, it’s a gloomier picture for Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who sank to fifteenth place, no doubt linked to questions over the ethics of Google’s AI programme.
Bill Gates shot up by nine places to third place, perhaps due to the wealth and influence created by his involvement in NFTs and cryptocurrency. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also rose through the rankings, with a 30% growth in personal wealth and a bid to buy Twitter giving him a leg-up. And Apple CEO Tim Cook continues to impress the world by filling the shoes of Steve Jobs, with Apple’s market value growing by 34% since 2021, with no sign of stopping.
With a different direction on the list, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s CEO recently, taking on the role of executive chairman. Although he sold the majority of his Amazon shares, which resulted in him dropping a few places, he is still very much up there thanks to his whopping net worth and new projects such as founding the “Bezos Earth Fund” to counter the effects of climate change and his space travel plans with Blue Origin.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth dropped by more than $70 billion thanks to the social media platform’s technical issues and pressure from competitors such as TikTok. So perhaps the fact that he maintains the ninth highest spot can be explained by his range of platforms – WhatsApp and Instagram among them – and his growth of the Portal video calling device.
TikTok architect Zhang Yinming just made the top 25 this year, 26 places up from 2021, thanks to the ever-growing prevalence of TikTok. Meanwhile, Larry Fink, CEO of investment corporation BlackRock, also made an impressive jump, by 19 places to 65, all on the strength of increased reach and influence.
It comes to no surprise that the Media category plays a very important role in our Index as well as in the Business world in general when we think of how many lucrative areas it covers - from advertising, broadcasting, live printed and published news, paid subscription, motion pictures etc. (source: Investopedia.com)
But things were gloomier for media magnate Rupert Murdoch, whose influence plummeted by a whopping 40-point drop in position, to 58. He was joined by Netflix’s co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings, whose 2022 ranking is 28 places lower than last year. And Disney CEO Bob Iger’s ranking dropped by 27 places to 62, although in his case perhaps this could be explained by his retirement at the tail end of 2020.
And other sectors were a real mix
Although Business, Politics and Media are the categories with most wealth and power in 2022 as well, this Index would not be complete without most influential Entertainers and Athletes.
In the entertainment section of WRTW, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson has risen through the ranks, 25 places altogether, predominantly through his influence wielded by reaching over 365 million followers on Instagram every day. It is also worth mentioning the debut of Joe Rogan, one of the most influential entrepreneurs, podcast hosts and comedians.
Volatile world, changing shapes of power
2022 so far has seen major shifts in global perception, thinking and concerns, not to mention surprising business moves and abrupt political sea change. Some of the bedrock of our Index however remained unchanged. The Technology sector again takes most of the power, fuelled by big Tech fortunes and CEO clout. The US is still the sole largest economy and agent of influence. Men still wield most of the power in the world even if select politicians like Ursula von der Leyen remained almost unmovable in their 2021 spot.
We can only guess how the coming months will influence the instruments of power and what names we will see again in 2023.
To check out the full list, whether that be for curiosity of decision-making guidance,you’ll find the complete index here.