China’s Billionaire Growth ‘Defies Gravity’ In 2013

Wang Jianlin, China's richest person.

Wang Jianlin, China’s richest person.

The growth in China’s number of millionaires may be slowing, but the increase of its number of billionaires is at a “staggering” high, according to the Hurun Report’s recently published annual China Rich List.

According to the report, the number of dollar billionaires rose by an all-time record of 64 people, to 315 individuals in 2013. As reported earlier, Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda is now the richest man in China after usurping Wahaha’s Zong Qinghou this year to earn the top spot on the list. This growth is especially notable when taking into account the fact that 10 years ago, China had no billionaires whatsoever (as far as we know).

The list of China’s top five richest people saw three new names this year: Pony Ma of Tencent in third, Wei Jianjun of Great Wall Motor in fourth, and real estate developer Yang Huiyan in fifth. The rise of Tencent’s Ma was especially foreseeable, considering the massive rise of the company’s mobile social app WeChat over the past year.

According to Hurun Report Chairman Rupert Hoogewerf, “Strong performances in real estate and IT have driven China’s richest to new records. China’s richest seem to have defied gravity this year, overcoming a slowdown in the economy and a poor stock market to hit new heights.”

It appears that China’s affluent are starting to see a rising “wealth gap” in their overall ranks. While the growth in China’s overall number of millionaires declined, according to an earlier Hurun report from this year, over half of China’s top 1,000 richest people saw their wealth grow, sometimes at enormously high rates—list leader Wang saw his personal fortune double. Fortune growth for Zong as well as 143 other members of the top 1,000 was at a rate of 50 percent or higher. In contrast, only 252 saw their wealth shrink.

Compared to a much different picture last year, when only 291 members of the list saw their wealth increase, and 469 saw it shrink, it looks like China’s economic recovery is back on track for at least one very small segment of the population.

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