Li Ka-shing, China's richest man, meets with Queen Elizabeth in September 2013. (Li Ka-shing Foundation)
When it comes to the world’s exclusive billionaires club, Chinese members once again played a massive and growing role over the past year, says a new report.
According to the Hurun Report’s global rich list for 2014 released today, China is the second most important player in the “nine-zero club.” As the runner-up to the United States for the top number of billionaires over the past year, China has a total of 358 ultra-wealthy citizens. The country also came second behind the United States in billionaire growth numbers, gaining 41.
“China’s billionaires are shooting up the Hurun Global Rich List. This is why Hurun Report, a media headquartered in Shanghai, China, has set out on this quest to track down and rank the world’s billionaires,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report.
Billionaires of Chinese origin living across the globe take up 24 percent of the total number worldwide, with 457. As their numbers grow, they’re becoming more globally dispersed as those from the mainland move abroad. China remains the top country for billionaires choosing to emigrate, with a total of 99 that have found other citizenship as of this year. For those who stay in China, Beijing and Hong Kong were the first and second Chinese cities with the most billionaires, respectively, and Shenzhen came in ahead of Shanghai for third place.
Chinese billionaire demographics are quite different from those of other regions. As usual, Chinese billionaires remain the youngest in the worldwide club, with an average age of 56. Despite the country’s ongoing ant-corruption campaign, 90 Chinese billionaires remain in senior political advisory positions.
China’s shaky stock market may have encouraged many Chinese investors to favor hard assets, but more billionaires are flocking to Chinese stock exchanges than those in the United States. However, real estate remains the main driver of billionaire wealth in China despite the Chinese government’s attempts to curb property speculation. While tech companies were the main source of billionaire wealth in the United States, 60 percent of China’s was generated from real estate, manufacturing, and investments. The top four wealthiest real estate tycoons in the world all hail from China, and include Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing and Dalian Wanda CEO Wang Jianlin, as well as Lee Shau Kee and Robert Kuok. Seven of the top 10 are Chinese.
While rich lists often find different results due to the difficulties in tracking income, Hurun agrees with Bloomberg’s recent report that Li is China’s richest man, followed by the mainland’s Wang. The two men came in at 12th and 26th on the worldwide list, respectively.
Thanks to the massive amount of "gray" or hidden income owned by the world's wealthy, all of these results are probably just the tip of the iceberg, says Hoogewerf. “For every billionaire that Hurun Report has found, I estimate we have missed at least two," he stated.