SHANGHAI – China’s 400 richest people became US$150 billion (S$186.64 billion) wealthier this year, Forbes magazine said Wednesday, despite a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.
The vast increase – an average of almost US$400 million each – highlights the growing inequality between the Communist country’s superrich and the millions who still live in poverty.
“The rich are getting richer,” Forbes Shanghai bureau chief Russell Flannery told a press conference as the magazine unveiled its annual China rich list.
“The rapid growth of wealth in China seems to be out of line with the Chinese economic slowdown,” he said.
The net assets of the top 100 richest people in China soared 44 per cent from a year earlier to US$316 billion, the magazine said, while the number of dollar billionaires rose to a record high of 168.
That came even as China’s economy has slowed. The Chinese economy expanded 7.7 per cent last year, the worst performance since 1999.
Forbes attributed the increase in wealth to growth in select industries, such as the Internet, auto, entertainment and property sectors.
Wang Jianlin, head of property giant Wanda Group and buyer of US cinema chain AMC Entertainment, topped the list with a net worth of $14.1 billion.
His fortune leaped from US$8 billion last year, helped by a rebound in property prices and his investment in AMC.
Forbes had already announced last month that Wang had taken the top spot.
Another ranking by the independent Hurun Report also put him at number one.
Last year’s leader, beverage tycoon Zong Qinghou, slipped to second place in the Forbes list, even though his wealth increased 12 per cent to US$11.2 billion.
Robin Li, founder of China’s homegrown search engine Baidu, dropped to third but his wealth jumped 37 per cent from last year to US$11.1 billion.
In a surprise new entry to the ranking Li Hejun, chairman of clean energy firm Hanergy Holding Group, appeared for the first time in fourth place with a net worth of $10.9 billion.
Yang Huiyan, who inherited a majority stake in property developer Country Garden, was China’s richest woman with a fortune of US$7.2 billion giving her seventh place.
As well as Robin Li, two other Internet billionaires made the top ten.
Ma Huateng, owner of social gaming and networking company Tencent, took fifth place with net worth of $10.2 billion, jumping nearly 60 per cent year-on-year due to a surge in his Hong Kong-listed firm’s share price.
And Jack Ma, founder of China’s leading e-commerce firm Alibaba, ranked eighth as his fortune more than doubled to US$7.1 billion from US$3.4 billion last year.