The president of the United States, the "backbone" of the European Union and the leader of the most populous nation on Earth are shoo-ins but, for a few years running, no list of the most powerful people is complete without one super octogenarian.
Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing has again made the annual Forbes rankings at No 31 - improving on last year's 44 and the previous year's 36.
The 84-year-old "Superman," 29th in 2009, was earlier ranked No 9 on the magazine's list of richest individuals.
Forbes also took note of Li's philanthropy, saying he has given out, through his foundation, more than US$1.6 billion (HK$12.48 billion) in grants to education, health-care and cultural organizations.
Apart from the obvious choices of president-in-waiting Xi Jinping (9) and premier-designate Li Keqiang (13), Li is at the head of a handful of Chinese entries.
They include Lou Jiwei (39), chairman of China Investment Corp, and Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou Tai-ming (55) of Hon Hai.
Hong Kong's Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun (58), director-general of the World Health Organization, and Robin Li Yanhong (64), who founded mainland internet giant Baidu, also made the list.
US President Barack Obama is the first among 71 names on the list - a figure Forbes said it set as a cutoff because there are an estimated 7.1 billion people in the world.
The rankings are based on factors ranging from wealth to global influence.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel - "the backbone of the 27-member EU" - Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pope Benedict XVI, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia and British Prime Minister David Cameron are also in the top 10.
The highest-ranked businessman is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at No 4. US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, both public officials, also made the top 10.
Other high-ranking heads of state include French President Francois Hollande (14), Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (19), Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei (21) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (44).
Age was not a barrier, with the 28-year-old Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and 81-year-old News Corp head Rupert Murdoch back-to-back at 25 and 26, respectively.
Other top businessmen are Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim (11) and Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett (15).
Among the oddities is Joaquin Guzman Loera (63).
Far from a household name, Loera is a billionaire nicknamed "El Chapo" who as head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel is the world's most powerful drug trafficker, according to Forbes.
Former US president Bill Clinton is 50th, with Forbes editors noting that by hitting the campaign trail for Obama, Clinton "cemented his status as a kingmaker," along with his nonpartisan Global Initiative raising more than US$71 billion in commitments to fund charitable action worldwide.