President, People’s Republic of China
There hasn’t been a stronger leader in China since the reformer Deng Xiaoping—or maybe the revolutionary Mao Zedong. Xi Jinping shares traits with both. He has consolidated power; fired, fined, or jailed a quarter of a million cadres in his massive corruption purge; and cracked down on dissidents. He’s also behind China’s robust nationalistic message directed at world powers. At the same time he has preached meaningful reforms—including, importantly, strengthening the rule of law. Much now depends on his ability to advance those reforms while managing the economy’s inevitably slowing growth and its transition from being investment-based to consumption-based. That’s a monumental job, of course. A stumble could spark insurrection and disaster, but so far Xi is holding things together. Veteran China watchers in the West consider him a true leader, albeit one whose record remains incomplete. That’s why many are calling this the most interesting time in China in decades.