China’s Billionaire Club Set To Overtake UK, Russia, France, And Switzerland—Combined

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Billionaire Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda. (Flickr/World Economic Forum)

China’s total number of billionaires may be miniscule compared to the size of the country’s population, but it’s about to get a whole lot bigger in relation to the number of ultra-wealthy individuals in the rest of the world.

That was the finding of a new report released by global real estate consultancy Knight Frank for its annual Wealth Report released last week. According to the report, the number of billionaires in China is set to overtake that of the UK, Russia, France, and Switzerland combined as early as 2023, and will account for an 80 percent growth rate over the next decade.

While this percentage may seem staggering, the number of billionaires will still be pretty low—the exclusive group is predicted to hit 322 members by 2023. However, this amount will not only eclipse those from other top locales, but will add an extra US$1 trillion to global GDP every year until 2023.

The report also narrows its findings by city, concluding that Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing will all move up the list of the top 10 global locations for ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) by 2024. While the cities are expected to be listed at fourth, sixth, and ninth place respectively by the end of this year, they will reach third, fifth, and sixth by 2024.

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These numbers, however, are only a rough estimate—many experts believe that the actual total of China’s billionaires is much higher than what publicly available records can tell us. China’s massive amount of “gray income” means that counting the true number of billionaires can be a daunting task, and estimates can vary drastically. This year’s Hurun Report China billionaire count says there are already 358 billionaires in the country—a number that exceeds Knight Frank’s 2023 prediction—while Forbes has provided the much more conservative estimate of 152.

One main fact about this massive wealth growth that all reports can agree upon, however, is that real estate will play a major role (if there’s not a massive property bubble burst, of course). According to Knight Frank, prices in Beijing were up 17 percent in 2013, while Guangzhou and Shanghai rose 14 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Chinese property investors will also be looking abroad even more than they are now—and Chinese luxury developments in prime locations like London, New York, Sydney, and Vancouver are expected to rise.

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