Report: Beijing Surpasses New York as Global ‘Billionaire Capital’

Wang Jianlin remains China's richest person, according to the Hurun Report. (Flickr/World Economic Forum)

Wang Jianlin remains China’s richest person, according to the Hurun Report. (Flickr/World Economic Forum)

Despite China’s recent economic turbulence, its rich are still getting richer as its billionaire population has surpassed that of the United States and Beijing has become the world’s “billionaire capital.”

According to the China-based Hurun Report’s new 2016 Global Rich List released this week, Greater China gained 90 new billionaires over the past year for a total of 568, moving the United States down to number two on the list with its slightly lower number of 535. Mainland China alone, however, remains behind the United States with a total of 470, although that number is jumping fast as 74 of all of Greater China’s new billionaires came from the mainland this year.

In addition, the report finds that Beijing is now the new “billionaire capital” of the world with a total of 100, replacing New York, which has 95. Beijing is joined by four additional Chinese cities on the list of the top 10 in the world for billionaires, including Hong Kong (64), Shanghai (50), Shenzhen (46), and Hangzhou (32).

While their numbers may have grown, China’s billionaires aren’t quite the world’s richest. China’s richest person is once again Dalian Wanda’s Wang Jianlin, but his net worth of US$26 billion only earns him a rank of 21 on the global list and is far below Bill Gates’ $80 billion and Warren Buffet’s $68 billion. In addition, only eight of mainland China’s billionaires made it onto the list of the top 100 richest this year, despite the fact that Chinese billionaires’ total combined wealth equals US$1.4 trillion. In second and third place for Greater China were Li Ka-shing of Cheung Kong and Jack Ma of Alibaba, respectively.

China’s real estate, manufacturing, and tech industries generated the most new billionaires over the past year, as the number of Chinese billionaires has surged by 80 percent since 2013. China also dominates the list of what Hurun defines as “self-made” female billionaires, making up 93 of 124 names globally.

All the new wealth being generated doesn’t mean that China’s .01 percent actually wants to stay in China, as the country produced the largest number of outbound “migrant billionaires” that moved to a different country with a total of 56. This also doesn’t count the amount of wealth that’s being moved outside the country by China’s rich as they fret over recent economic conditions including a volatile stock market, currency devaluation, and slowing growth.

It’s often difficult to pin down exact numbers for China’s ultra-rich, as many make efforts to keep their wealth hidden. This is especially true as the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign has been going after Chinese billionaires, with several disappearing over the past year after being picked up by police. The most recent case was fashion brand Metersbonwe’s chairman Zhou Chengjian, who abruptly went missing for a week in January.

As a result, China rich lists released by Hurun and other companies such as Forbes and Bloomberg often yield differing results, but they all point to the fact that China’s billionaire club is one very elite group.

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