Crisis? What crisis? Rich get even richer
By Yu Tianyu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-14 07:56

The ranks of China's super rich ballooned during the past year, despite the financial crisis, with the number of US dollar billionaires jumping from 101 to 130.

The rise in fortunes means China is now home to the world's second-largest population of billionaires - following the US, which has 359.

The newly released 2009 Hurun Rich List, a ranking of the 1,000 richest individuals in China, shows that the average wealth of those listed rocketed by 30 percent, to $571 million, during the past 12 months.

Crisis? What crisis? Rich get even richer

"The key driver has been urbanization because about 23 percent of the people on the list made their fortune in property," said Rupert Hoogewerf, the list's compiler.

This year's top 10 includes seven new faces, the largest number of new entries since the Hurun Report started the rankings in 1999. The seven made their fortunes mainly in mining and real estate.

The report identified the influence of US businessman Warren Buffett, whose investment caused a five-fold increase in the share price of Chinese electric car and battery maker BYD Co, helping chairman Wang Chuanfu rise up the list.

With assets of $5.1 billion, Wang jumped 102 places from last year to the number one spot.

The person who topped the list last year, Huang Guangyu, the former chairman of Gome Electrical Appliances Holdings, slipped to 17th. He is currently under investigation for alleged financial irregularities.

In addition to Wang, Buffett's touch had an immediate impact on Li Guilian, ranked 656. Buffett announced at his annual conference that he only wears suits made by Li's Dayang Trands Co Ltd.

Another fast riser this year was "Paper Queen" Zhang Yin, from Nine Dragons Paper, who is worth $4.9 billion and catapulted to the number two position.

Zhang and another 101 wealthy women account for 10.2 percent of the annual list of 1,000. And Chinese women make up more than half the population of the world's richest self-made women.

Hoogewerf predicted that the list will include many entrepreneurs involved in new energy and energy-saving initiatives or environmental protection. He said it was likely there would be two or three people from those industries with net assets of 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) within three years.

Hoogewerf, meanwhile, admitted that China's super rich may be even more plentiful than his list suggests.

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"The real number of billionaires in China could be as many as 260," said Hoogewerf. "There are still a large number of billionaires off the radar screens."

Jin Yanshi, chief economist at Sinolink Securities in Shanghai, said: "In the 1980s, to be a Wanyuanhu (a Chinese word describing people possessing 10,000 yuan) was a great dream for many Chinese.

"The rich list reflects the changes in China's economy and also people's attitude and knowledge about wealth."

China has 825,000 individuals with a personal wealth of more than 10 million yuan and 51,000 individuals with more than 100 million yuan, according to the Hurun 2009 Wealth Report, released in May.

The National Bureau of Statistics put the urban per capita disposable income at 15,781 yuan ($2312) in 2008, an 8.4 percent year-on-year rise.

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