Report: China Has World's Most Billionaires for Second Year in Row

    China may have lost two billionaires in the past year, but the Hurun Report claims it still has more than the United States.
    Wang Jianlin at the Fortune Global Forum in 2013. (Flickr/Fortune Live Media)
    Liz FloraAuthor
      Published   in Macro

    After being overtaken for the first time last year, America is still second to China for its total number of billionaires, according to the newly released Hurun China Rich List for 2016.

    The 18th annual edition of the list ranking China’s wealthiest individuals finds that mainland China has two fewer dollar billionaires than it had last year for a total of 594. That’s a far cry from last year’s 242 new billionaires in China estimated by the firm, but it's still enough to top the United States, which has 535 after losing two itself.

    Wang Jianlin remains China’s richest person, but tech giants are on their way to catching up to the property magnate: the Dalian Wanda founder and chairman remains at the top of the list with an estimated net worth of US$32.1 billion. While the tycoon actually lost 2 percent of his net worth over the past year as the economy slowed, he still managed to stay ahead of Alibaba Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma, who beat the slowdown with 41 percent growth in net worth for a total of $30.6 billion. WeChat parent company Tencent’s Pony Ma was close behind in third after 38 percent growth in his own wealth.

    The biggest gain on the list was that of fourth-place Yao Zhenhua, who is known as the “hostile takeover king” and shot up 200 places on the list from last year. His wealth skyrocketed with an 820 percent increase, making him worth US$17.2 billion. He is best known for his high-profile takeover of real estate developer Vanke this year, and Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf states that his rise “represents the new wave of wealth creation in China. The first money made in China 20 years ago came from trading, followed by manufacturing, real estate, IT, and today it is about using the capital markets for financial investments.”

    Since the list is based on estimates, its findings often differ from those of other China rich lists. For example, Forbes’ 2015 China Rich List said that China actually had only 335 billionaires and was still second to the United States, which it estimated to have 536. The list placed Wang Jianlin in first and Jack Ma in second as Hurun did, but ranked Tencent’s Pony Ma in third place while Hurun had him in fourth after Wahaha’s Zong Qinghou. Meanwhile, a joint report on billionaires released today by UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers states that China added 80 billionaires in 2015, a big difference from Hurun’s estimate of over 200 for the year to August 2015.

    “If you look at absolute wealth on the Hurun Rich List, it has come from three main sources: real estate, driven by China[’s] urbanization program, IT, driven by the digitalization of the country, and manufacturing, based on China’s early export model,” says Hoogewerf. Other wealthy members of Hurun’s top 10 included Ding Lei of Netease, Xu Jiaxin of Evergrande, and He Xiangjian of Midea.

    When it comes to the “mere” ultra-rich (which Hurun defines as those with a net worth US$300 million or more), the list grew by 179 people for a total of 2,056. Overall, “total wealth from the Hurun Rich List rose 7 percent, in line with China’s GDP growth,” says Hoogewerf. China's economic slowdown meant 1,007 list members saw no growth or decline in their wealth, while 703 saw wealth increases. Meanwhile, 167 names from last year’s list couldn't make the cut.

    More of China’s UHNWIs are opting to live in Beijing, as 43 of them moved there in the past year for a total of 322, according to the report. Shenzhen came in second on the list, followed by Shanghai in third.

    Since the report focuses on China’s rich, it also never fails to look at the zodiac signs of the ultra-wealthy. “Rabbits lead the way for the umpteenth year,” says the report, stating that sheep, rats, and pigs also fared well, but the horse and the ox both had a “ bad year.”

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