TIME has released the shortlist for its Person of the Year category, which names the individual, group or concept that most influenced the world in 2023, in their opinion.
Last year, it was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the ‘Spirit of Ukraine’ that topped the rankings, after dominating headlines since Russia’s invasion.
But in 2023, his warmongering foe Russian President Vladimir Putin is judged to have had a greater influence on world affairs, going up against eight others shortlisted.
Putin finds himself among movers and shakers from the worlds of politics, culture and technology – a broad circle of global trend-setters and revolutionaries.
The most influential of China’s Xi Jinping, Hollywood strikers, Taylor Swift, OpenAI’s Sam Altman, Barbie, King Charles III, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and Vladimir Putin will be announced Wednesday.
Over the last 96 years, the tradition has seen a number of controversial figures including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini named.
Few could have missed the international reaction to Taylor Swift’s long-anticipated Eras tour this year as the pop superstar geared up to parade five continents between March 2023 and December next year.
Billboard estimates the circuit could gross $900m this year – and twice that next year – putting Eras on target to become the highest-grossing tour of all time. Coupled with a film pulling in $249.6m at the box office, 2023 has been kind to Ms Swift.
Following her split from long-time boyfriend Joe Alwyn in April, the singer from West Reading, Pennsylvania also announced she was dating football player Travis Kelce in November, finally putting to bed weeks of rumours.
Taylor Swift performs onstage during ‘Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour’ at SoFi Stadium on August 9
Since making history by securing his third term as state president in March 2023, Xi Jinping has had a lot of space to play with at the top of Chinese politics.
China under Xi has steadily funneled investment to neighbours and potential allies through the Belt and Road Initiative while building on its existing relationship through BRICS – a mixed bag of unlikely friends that China sees as a way to counter the global influence of the West.
China has had its share of challenges in 2023. Beneficiaries of investment have begun to default on unpayable debts. A housing crisis and a demographic crisis threaten to shake up China’s ability to maintain its industrial ambitions. But for better and for worse, Xi Jinping’s steady foreign policy continues to have huge influence on the world.
China’s Xi Jinping (right) stands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) in Brazil, 2019
With Russia’s presidential elections looming in March, it remains to be seen whether Vladimir Putin will keep his grip on power into the new year. Sources close to the Kremlin suggest legitimate fears he may lose, with Russia enduring a brutal clampdown on protest in recent months.
Still, the brutal war of attrition in Ukraine has kept eastern Europe in the spotlight for another year. Putin has used the turmoil of an emerging multi-polar world to build bridges to Iran and Gaza in the Middle East, while courting new allies further afield through BRICS.
As questions grow around the willingness of western backers to continue to support Ukraine, Putin has used 2023 to rebalance Russia’s economy and make careful ties to emerging middle-sized powers jaded by western hegemony.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a plenary session of the World Russian People’s Council via video link in Sochi, Russia November 28, 2023
King Charles III
The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 marked the end of a long era in British history. Her reign of over 70 years is the longest of any British monarch and saw the country move through decolonisation, integration into the European project post-war, and into the beginning of Britain’s journey alone.
Questions initially focused on how Charles would differ from his mother, whether he would be more active or outspoken as sovereign. The King – currently at COP28 in Dubai – has remained a staunch defender of the environment, bringing attention to green issues and continuing to represent Britain in the world through a sequence of state visits.
Next year will surely throw up more challenges as independence movements respond to a period of change, and as Britain anticipates a general election.
King Charles III and the Queen Camilla pictured together in a file photo dated November 2022
2023 also saw the widespread adoption of commercially viable artificial intelligence. Sam Altman, the founder of OpenAI (known for ChatGPT), was very much at the forefront of the movement to bring capable new tools – and then spelled out the need for various forms of regulation.
It’s been a turbulent few weeks for the 38-year-old tech entrepreneur. OpenAI’s board announced last month that Altman would be removed as CEO, judged ‘not consistently candid in his communications’. Rumours then circled he was joining Microsoft, before OpenAI said he was rejoining on November 22.
As international leaders met for the world’s first AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in the UK last month, artificial intelligence is bound to have a growing geopolitical influence into 2024.
38-year-old Sam Altman was reinstated as OpenAI CEO after he was removed last month
Donald Trump became the first US President to be indicted in history, charged in four separate cases. Felony counts brought by prosecutors have piled on ‘The Donald’, accused of election interference, illegally keeping classified documents and falsifying business records.
Next year, Trump will still have a series of trials to attend in 2024 as he plans to run again for the presidency. It will be a long and difficult campaign for the 77-year-old, who faces potential penalties of up to 20 years in jail.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump is questioned during the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, November 6, 2023 in this courtroom sketch
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling starred in hit motion picture Barbie – the franchise’s first live action – this year. While juxtaposed against concurrent release Oppenheimer, it was Greta Gerwig’s feature that drew the most headlines, pulling in $1.4bn and even leading to a global shortage of pink paint.
Barbie spoke to the zeitgeist of the early 2020s, self-critical and focused in on themes of femininity and masculinity in the modern age. The score garnered a glowing 88 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes but Google audience reviews gave the film a middling three-out-of-five stars.
Margot Robbie attends the European premiere of Barbie in central London on July 12, 2023
Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was the final candidate on TIME’s shortlist this year, noted for his role in bringing down inflation in the United States.
His achievement was pulling together the ‘soft landing’ of managing soaring prices by increasing interest rates without deterring investment and plunging the country into recession.
The US’s inflation rate for October stood at 2.6 per cent from September’s 2.88 per cent. On Friday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy is ‘better balanced,’ and when it comes to the trajectory of the economy, ‘we are getting what we want.’
Powell was commended on the TIME100 list back in 2019 and 2020.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell answers a question at a press conference following a closed two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on interest rate policy at the Federal Reserve in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2023
The Hollywood actors’ strike concluded after months of bitter battles in November. Strikes began in July this year, with actors bringing attention to a number of issues including pay and use of AI in scriptwriting.
But a coordinated effort to demand change finally saw a tentative agreement pulled together in early November — a welcome end to the dispute as Warner Bros predicted in September that the actor and writers’ strike would see it lose up to $500million this year.
TIME described the strikes as ‘a rare show of the power of both labor and the entertainment industry’.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher speaks, flanked by Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s executive director and chief negotiator, during a press conference following the end of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) strike in Los Angeles, California, on November 10