SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A woman has topped a list of China's richest people for
the first time, elbowing past two-time leader Huang Guangyu of GOME Electrical
Appliances and a coterie of CEOs at old-economy government enterprises.
Newly minted billionaire Cheung Yan -- the 49 year-old founder and chairwoman
of top Chinese paper packager Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd. -- saw her
fortune balloon nine-fold to US$3.4 billion boosted by her firm's March initial
The entrepreneur, who controlled 72 percent of Nine Dragons as of August 31,
has lapped up a 165 percent rally in the company's stock, according to an annual
survey compiled by Rupert Hoogewerf, who pioneered a list for Forbes.
Cheung's stellar ascent is rare in a country whose largest corporations
are state-owned or run by well-connected male executives.
"China's women are becoming more visible in business," said Hoogewerf, who
has published the list since 1999.
"Traditionally women have always been on the inside and men have been on the
outside. It hasn't been until the economic reforms that women have actually
started to make inroads into the public arena."
Cheung, born in northeastern China's Heilongjiang province and now a Los
Angeles native, began building her fortune in 1985, when she set up a
waste-paper trading business in Hong Kong.
She later became the top exporter of scrap paper by volume in the United
States, processing the paper in China to make containerboard.
Her personal wealth leapt from $375 million last year, when she was logged as
number 36 in the survey, surpassing appliances king Huang's $2.5 billion,
according to the report.
Huang, chairman of GOME -- the country's top retailer of household
electronics -- had topped the list in 2005 for the second consecutive year, with
a fortune of $1.7 billion.
The man who started his career with $500 and a Beijing roadside stall hawking
radios and gadgets built GOME into a multi-billion dollar empire spanning nearly
100 cities across the country.
The number of Chinese billionaires on the Hurun list increased to 13, from
seven last year and just three in 2004.
The rise in the number of China's super-rich comes amid a widening gulf
between rich and poor that analysts say threatens social stability even as the
Chinese President Hu Jintao in July called for stronger efforts to tackle the
wealth gap, saying salaries should be market-oriented but that the country must
focus on fairness.
The 500 richest Chinese in the Hurun report are now worth an average of
US$276 million, a 48 percent rise over the previous year, controlling a total
US$138 billion in assets.