China’s super wealthy have earned a record US$1.5 trillion this year, more than the past five years combined, as e-commerce and gaming boomed during pandemic lockdowns, an annual rich list said yesterday.
An extra 257 people also joined the billionaires club in the world’s No. 2 economy by August, following two years of shrinking membership, according to the closely watched Hurun Report.
The country now has a total of 878 billionaires.
The US had 626 people in the top bracket at the start of the year, Hurun said in its February global list.
The report found that there were about 2,000 individuals with a net worth of more than 2 billion yuan (US$299 million at the current exchange rate) in August, giving them a combined net worth of US$4 trillion.
Jack Ma (馬雲), founder of e-commerce titan Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴), once again topped the list after his wealth surged 45 percent to US$58.8 billion as online shopping firms saw a surge in business owing to people being shut indoors for months during strict lockdowns to contain COVID-19.
He was followed by Pony Ma (馬化騰) (US$57.4 billion), boss of gaming giant and WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊), who made an extra 50 percent, despite concerns about his firm’s US outlook after it was threatened with bans there over national security fears.
First-time list member Zhong Shanshan (鍾睒睒), 66, best-known for his bottled water brand Nongfu Nongfu Spring Co (農夫山泉), parachuted into third spot with US$53.7 billion after a Hong Kong initial public offering last month, the report found.
“The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year,” Hurun Report chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said in a statement.
China is “moving away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, towards the new economy,” he added.
Wang Xing (王興), founder of food delivery app Meituan Dianping (美團點評), quadrupled his wealth and jumped 52 places to 13th in the list with US$25 billion, while Richard Liu (劉強東), the founder of online shopping platform JD.com Inc (京東) doubled his money pile to US$23.5 billion.
Healthcare entrepreneurs also moved up the list on the back of the pandemic, with Jiang Rensheng (蔣仁生), founder of vaccine-maker Zhifei Biological Products Co Ltd (智飛), tripling his wealth to US$19.9 billion.
China shut down major cities across the country in late January and February to contain the novel coronavirus, causing an unprecedented economic contraction in the first quarter.
However, with infections appearing to be under control, the country is on track to become the only major economy to expand this year, the IMF has said.
On Monday, data showed that the Chinese economy expanded 4.9 percent in the third quarter, but away from the glittering figures as many ordinary workers and fresh graduates are struggling to find jobs.
The urban unemployment rate inched down to 5.4 percent last month, although analysts have warned of higher unemployment than officially reported this year.
With the speed cryptocurrency is emerging as the millennial generation’s alternative asset of choice in India, it is hard to imagine that just two years ago a couple of blockchain pioneers were briefly in police custody. Sathvik Vishwanath and Harish BV, cofounders of a then five-year-old start-up, were arrested in late 2018. No, they had not pulled off a shady initial coin offering. Their “crime” was that they put up a kiosk in a mall in Bangalore where customers could swap bitcoin, ether or ripple for cash or vice versa. That was the whole point of unocoin, their crypto token exchange.
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