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But one cannot take the rankings too seriously because the list, compiled by a company in the US, is largely influenced by US political interests and Western values. In 2010, the list placed Chinese President Hu Jintao at No 1, because a struggling US economy needed China's cooperation more than ever at that time, Sun said.|
The annual list names people who Forbes claim were the world's 71 most powerful people, based on factors ranging from wealth to global influence.
To create the ranking, which Forbes readily concedes bore a measure of subjectivity, editors graded candidates on four criteria for power and then averaged the four grades: Power over lots of people, financial resources controlled, whether the person has power in various spheres of life and whether that person actively uses their power.
The most powerful person of 2011, US President Barack Obama, again led the list, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia and British Prime Minister David Cameron were also in the Top 10.
"This year's list reflects the changing of the guard in the world's two most powerful countries: the United States and China," said Michael Noer, Forbes' executive editor.
Age was also not a barrier, with two of the youngest and oldest of this year's most powerful prople — 28-year-old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 81-year-old News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch — back-to-back at numbers 25 and 26.
Others, such as New York's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, scored high in all areas, placing him at 16th, while former US president Bill Clinton placed 50th.
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Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.