For the last seven years the title of the city with the most billionaires has been held by New York, but this year a new name has taken over and that city is Beijing.
According to the latest Forbes annual rich list, the Chinese capital added 33 billionaires last year, taking its total to 100 – one more than the Big Apple.
China’s quick containment of the Covid virus allowed its economy to grow last year and the country’s technology firms continue to prosper, but what’s interesting about the list of billionaires is the wide variety of industries represented. It’s by no means all technology, software and e-commerce.
Top of the list of China’s billionaires according to Forbes is Jack Ma, co-founder and former CEO of internet shopping giant Alibaba, with an estimated fortune of $65.6bn (£47bn).
In second place is Ma Huateng, the founder and CEO of Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company and, according to Forbes, with an estimated wealth of $55.2bn (£39bn).
Other sources such as the Bloomberg Billionaires Index suggest that both Jack Ma and Ma Huateng lag behind bottled water tycoon, Zhong Shanshan, who founded his company, Nongfu Spring, in 1996. Bloomberg suggests that the recent stock market listing of his company and a controlling stake in a vaccine maker have significantly boosted Zhong’s wealth. The Bloomberg Index credits him with a net worth of $58.7bn (£46bn) – and suggests that Jack Ma has rather less wealth.
You do not have to go far down the lists to find plenty of more traditional industries.
Wang Wei is fifth on the Forbes list with a fortune estimated at $32.2bn (£23.8bn) thanks to delivering packages, and at 13th is Pang Kang, who is worth $24.9bn (£17.8bn) thanks to soy sauce – emphatically proving that you do not need the latest must-have app to make your fortune.
The oldest person on the list is 86-year-old Xu Chuanhua, worth very nearly $2bn (£1.43bn) thanks to logistics and chemicals. The youngest – at 35 and 333rd overall in China – is Jihan Wu, worth $1.8bn (£1.29bn) thanks to cryptocurrency mining chips. The richest woman – and eighth overall – is Yang Huiyan, who is worth $28.5bn (£20.4bn) thanks to real estate.
With China recovering rapidly from the pandemic and with a growth target in excess of 6% for this year, we can expect the number of Chinese billionaires to have risen again by this time next year.