Forbes has identified 168 billionaires in China with the publication of its annual China Rich List, setting a new record after surpassing the previous high of 146 billionaires in 2011.
The magazine published its list on Wednesday, ranking the 400 richest people in China. Real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin took the top spot for the first time with a net worth of US$14.1 billion, knocking last year’s top-ranked Zong Qinghou, owner of beverage company Wahaha, into second place with US$11.2 billion.
Robin Li, 44, founder and CEO of Chinese search engine giant Baidu, fell from second to third place with US$11.1 billion.
Those who made their fortune through real estate occupied the most slots on the top 100 list, while other industries including car manufacturing, beverages, and the internet also dominated.
Forbes staff writer Russell Flannery wrote: “Real estate, benefitting from a long-term trend of urbanisation and often held by tycoons such as Wang, has become valuable yet again after a raft of promises by authorities to boost affordability.”
Wang is the chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, one of the most powerful forces in China’s real estate industry. He has also recently made a big push into the entertainment industry, both at home and abroad. According to his profile on Forbes, the Wanda Group owns 71 shopping plazas and 40 five-star hotels across the world. Last year, the group also purchased US movie theatre chain AMC for US$2.6 billion.
According to Forbes: “Wang’s US$14.1 billion of wealth was the largest for a No1 on our list since 2007 when Yang Huiyan, inheriting the fortune of her real estate developer father Yeung Kwok Yeung, topped that year’s list at US$16.2 billion.”
Yang came in at seventh place and also became China’s richest woman this year, as well as the youngest in the top 10 list. Her real estate company Country Garden, inherited from her father, enjoyed a 94 per cent rise in sales this year.
Zong slipped into second place in this year’s list after topping the richest list both last year and in 2010, despite Wahaha’s revenue growing by 9.4 per cent to US$5.9 billion in the first 6 months of this year.
He experienced misfortune this year when he was attacked in August by a man who failed to obtain a job at his company. He suffered injuries to tendons in two of his fingers.
As the chief executive of Baidu, China’s No 1 online search company, Li may have dropped down the rankings into third place but his net worth actually increased from US$8.1 billion last year to US$11.1 billion.
The internet has produced some of the biggest increases in wealth for those ranked in the top 100. Three people in the top 10 are from the internet industry, including Li, Tencent chief Ma Huateng who came in fifth place, and Alibaba chairman Jack Ma Yun, ranked eighth.