China's Growing Economy Mints Billionaires
BEIJING — The superrich in China have bounced back from the financial crisis with a vengeance, and China now has more known U.S.-dollar billionaires than any other country except the United States, according to a report released Tuesday.
The annual Hurun Report said that China has 130 known dollar billionaires, up from 101 last year. The number in the United States is 359, while Russia has 32 and India 24, according to Forbes magazine.
China’s rich are getting richer, with the average wealth on the list $571 million, up almost one-third from last year, said Rupert Hoogewerf, the report’s compiler. The Hurun Report is a luxury publishing and events group, its Web site says.
“With the greatest wealth destruction in the West of the last 70 years, we’ve seen China buck the trend and the wealth seems to be still growing,” Mr. Hoogewerf said in an interview on the sidelines of an event to unveil the 2009 rich list.
“They’ve put the credit crunch behind them,” he said. “The key driver has been urbanization. You’ve got all these cities being built, and that requires property developers, iron and steel manufacturers. The latest thing is cars.”
Topping the list was Wang Chuanfu, chairman of the electric car and battery maker BYD, in which the American billionaire Warren Buffett holds a stake. Mr. Wang’s personal wealth is estimated at $5.1 billion. He was also the fastest riser from last year, moving up 102 places.
Second place went to Zhang Yin and family, owners of the paper recycler Nine Dragons Paper, while in third place was Xu Rongmao and family, the owners of the Shimao property group.
Huang Guangyu, who founded Gome Electrical Appliances and owns unlisted property businesses, sank to 17th place from the top position he held last year. He is being investigated for alleged financial irregularities.
One famous name fell off the list this year — the basketball player Yao Ming, who has struggled with a foot injury for the past few months.
China’s ruling Communist Party once condemned entrepreneurs and private business people as capitalist exploiters but has welcomed them since the late reformist leader, Deng Xiaoping, began landmark economic reforms in the 1970s.
One-third of the people on the 1,000-name Hurun list are estimated to be Party members, according to the report.
Mr. Hoogewerf said the actual number of dollar billionaires could be higher than estimated.
“Either they are superdiscreet, or perhaps they haven’t come to the surface,” he said. He added that the transparency of wealth was, however, now much higher because of the greater number of listed companies.
Mr. Hoogewerf said people who probably should have been listed, but about whose wealth not enough is known, included Liu Chuanzhi, the chairman of Lenovo, one of the world’s largest makers of PCs, and Chen Feng, the founder of Hainan Airlines.