When President Barack Obama traveled abroad for the first time after his re-election, he flew to Asia. There, he touted his vision of shifting military assets and diplomatic focus to the Pacific after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in reality, he was just pivoting to where the people are — China and India by themselves hold more than one-third of the world's population. Recognizing their growing importance counts even more now that China officially has fresh leadership; the Communist Party has just anointed Xi Jinping ("SHEE chin-PING") as the party's new general secretary. To give you a sense of just how rapidly the world is changing, here is a list of the globe's 15 most populous nations (which by themselves contain two-thirds of Earth's inhabitants) and their leaders. A few observations about the list: Europe would be shut out but for Russia. Only the United States fronts the North Atlantic. From the Mideast, only Egypt makes the list. And who knew that Vietnam has more people than any nation in Western Europe and all but one nation in Africa?
Source: CIA World Factbook. Compiled by Times news researcher Natalie Watson.