China Overtakes United States for World’s Most Billionaires

Dalian Wanda CEO Wang Jianlin, who tops China's rich list this year. (Flick/Fortune Live Media)

Dalian Wanda CEO Wang Jianlin, who tops China’s rich list this year. (Flick/Fortune Live Media)

A significant number of the wealthiest in China are becoming wealthier—and younger. The biggest game-changer coming from The Hurun Report’s annual Rich List 2015, however, is that the nation’s billionaire boom has now eclipsed its greatest challenger: the United States.

The report, which calculated and ranked the wealthiest people in China as of August 14 this year, revealed that the number of super-rich individuals has increased by a third to 1,877. More than 200 billionaires have been added to this group for a total of 596 billionaires on the Chinese mainland. According to the Hurun Global Rich List released in February, the United States has 537 billionaires. The cut-off for making Hurun’s 2015 China list remained the same as last year at $310 million, and more than 1,600 people saw a growth in their wealth.

Ninety-five percent of the people on China’s rich list are self-made millionaires and billionaires, giving China the highest percentage of entrepreneurs among nations surveyed by Hurun. Perhaps the most notable category among China’s new elite are those in the IT industry, which makes up the third-largest source of wealth after manufacturing and real estate. Well-known names in the IT industry have seen their stock rise on this year’s list: Pony Ma, of the $44.7 billion Tencent empire, now sits at number four on the list of China’s wealthiest with a net worth of $18.8 billion. A huge chunk of Ma’s success has arisen from WeChat’s emergence as the dominant Chinese social media platform and its expansion in terms of functionality—WeChat wallet is now a major player in China’s mobile payment market, while adoption of the platform’s e-commerce services is spiking.

“The influence of these top entrepreneurs is growing, as we saw in September when President Xi took nine of the Hurun Rich List in his official 15-strong entourage to visit the United States,” Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher, said in the report.

Next on the list is Lei Jun of Xiaomi, who doubled his wealth to $14.4 billion. While not in the top 10, Cheng Wei of taxi app Didi Kuaidi makes his debut on the list this year—just one of the growing number of young entrepreneurs emerging from China’s influential “post-80s” generation. These include “Drone King” Frank Wang Tao, 35, of drone technology company DJI-Innovations, with $3.4 billion, and Zhang Bangxin, who is 35 and worth $1.02 billion due to the success of his K-12 tutoring services company TAL Education.

Aside from IT, manufacturing, investments, automobiles and pharmaceuticals have also contributed significantly to the growth in China’s wealth. Retail is among the industries in China that are struggling, especially in the context of the Chinese president’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. However, this hasn’t tripped up Wang Jianlin, CEO of Dalian Wanda Group. Despite announcing this year that he would close 40 malls across China, Wang has returned to the number one spot, taking the seat from Alibaba’s Jack Ma after the e-commerce giant’s stock dropped in value. Wang’s success is largely attributed to his cinema chain, and he has also shifted focus away from real estate and more toward sports marketing and tourism, completing a mega resort in Yunnan Province and announcing he would build 19 more Wanda Plazas in the southwestern region. Meanwhile, Liu Qiangdong of e-commerce giant JD.com dropped out of the top 10 to number 28, but it wasn’t all bad news for retail as Zhang Jindong of electronics chain Suning, made the top 10 list at number nine with $12.7 billion.

 

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