The number of billionaires in China increased by 41 to 358 last year as the country displayed the rising affluence and economic might of the world's second-largest economy. According to the Hurun Global Rich List published yesterday, China - which covers the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan - has the most number of billionaires in the world after the United States. Sixty-four of the billionaires are from Hong Kong. As of January 17, the US was home to 481 magnates with a personal net worth of at least US$1 billion. Worldwide, 414 new faces made the list of billionaires, bringing the total number to 1,867. "The US economic recovery and an [information-technology] boom have driven the world's billionaires to record levels," said Rupert Hoogewerf, the chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report. "China's billionaires are shooting up the global rich list. This is why Hurun Report, a media headquartered in Shanghai, has set out on this quest to track down and rank the world's billionaires." A buoyant real estate sector appeared to be the major driving force for Chinese billionaires. Among the top 10 property tycoons worldwide, seven were from China, including Cheung Kong chairman Li Ka-shing, Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda, and Henderson Land Development boss Lee Shau-kee. Wang, the chairman of Dalian Wanda, saw his wealth double last year to US$25 billion. China has started to wield its economic clout around the world in the past decade, partly buoyed by lavish spending by its billionaires on foreign assets and artworks. Wang spent about HK$220 million to buy a painting by Spanish master Pablo Picasso. Li, also Asia's richest man, was the 12th richest person in the world with his net worth increasing 3 per cent to US$33 billion, the Hurun Report said. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates saw his fortune jump 26 per cent to US$68 billion, leapfrogging Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to become the world's richest man for the first time in three years. Wang and Galaxy Entertainment chairman Lui Che-woo shared the No 2 spot on the list of China's richest people, trailing Li. Pony Ma Huateng, the chairman of internet company Tencent, had a personal fortune worth US$14 billion, thanks to the robust performance of the company's Hong Kong-listed shares. Ma was ranked China's eighth-richest person by the Hurun Report. Chinese entrepreneurs are becoming more prominent as they amassed increasing fortunes, the report said. The Chinese billionaires accounted for 19 per cent of the world's total. The number of billionaires of Chinese origin, including those living in foreign countries, hit 457, up 108 from a year earlier, according to the Hurun Report. The only crimp at the march of Chinese billionaires would be worries of a slowdown in China's economy as the country struggled to deal with tighter credit and its shadow banking system. Beijing has mounted an effort to cool the real estate market to avoid risk of a bubble forming in the property market, but this has not dented the large gains reaped by developers from an escalation in property values.