If the saying “to get rich is glorious” is true, then there are more glorious people in China than ever before.
Out of 2,188 billionaires in 68 countries around the world, the Hurun Global Rich List found that there are 568 Chinese on the list, beating out the USA for the first time. Chinese ultra-rich also account for 90 percent of all new billionaires.
The report also found that with 32 more ultra-rich than last year, the 100 billionaires located in Beijing surpass the 95 in New York City for the first time ever, making it the billionaire capital of the world.
Rounding out the top five cities for billionaires are Moscow, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Additionally, five of the top ten cities for billionaires are in China. Shenzhen, which used to house the most ultra-rich in China, stands at the number seven position.
The richest Chinese billionaire on the list is 61 year-old Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin, China’s largest real estate developer and the world’s largest movie theater operator. Wang comes in at 21st position with $26 billion in personal assets.
The majority of Chinese billionaires have made their fortune in real estate, accounting for 117 such ultra-rich. The fields of manufacturing and technology were responsible for the fortunes of 94 and 68 Chinese billionaires, respectively. China also led the pack in “rags-to-riches” stories, accounting for 69 percent of self-made billionaires who did not rely upon their parents for their money. As well, China has the most self-made female ultra-rich at 93 out of 124.
China also has the highest number of billionaires under the age of 40 in the world. Wang Han, 28, leads a pack of 28 such young ultra-rich. It’s also worth noting that while a number of them do not reside in mainland China, 29 percent of billionaires are of Chinese origin, up 101 from 529 last year.
Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman of Hurun Report, said identifying the number of Chinese ultra-rich is difficult due to the lengths at which they try to cover up their fortune. Hoogewerf estimates the Hurun Report has only been able to identify 50 percent of China’s ultra rich.
“Think of it like an iceberg, the tip of it is much smaller than the whole,” Hoogewerf told CNN. “We do our best to find [hidden money], but they go to such extraordinary lengths to hide it.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Chinese scholars are warning China must do more to address the country’s growing poverty gap, said to be among the widest in the world. Zeng Xiangquan, director of the Labor and Human Affairs academy at People’s University, warns China may be falling into a “medium salary trap” due to a lack of innovation and reliance on cheap labor.
A clear sign of the disparity in wealth was reported by the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) of Peking University, who said China’s top one percent own one-third of all property in China, while the bottom 25 percent owns just one percent.
At the same time, a high cost of living is continuing to plague the middle class. White collar workers in cities like Dongguan are complaining their million yuan salaries are a “small comfort” when house and car payments whittle their earnings down to next to nothing.
Credit Suisse recently named China as having the largest middle-class in the world, numbering 109 million people.