Zhong Shanshan, China's Richest Man in 2021

Number of billionaires in China in 2020: 698, compared to 724 in the U.S., 177 in India, 56 in the U.K. and 49 in Japan. [Source: Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Perhaps China has more billionaires than anywhere in the world,” Rupert Hoogewerf. the compiler of the Shanghai-based Hurun rich list told Associated Press in 2010, “We already know of 189 U.S. dollar billionaires in China, but you can safely say that we have missed at least half again, meaning there are between 400 and 500 U.S.$ billionaires.” According to the Forbes 2010 list China was No.2 after the United States, which had 403 billionaires compared to 243 in all of Asia.

The billionaires list changes a great deal from year in China , which shows the volatility, dangers and fleetingness of being rich in China. For a while the list was dominated by magnates, then real estate tycoons and retailers, now paper and solar cells are making their mark. Many who are at the top one year are bankrupt the next. Forbes magazine releases its list of the richest people in China in October. To compile the list, public fortunes are calculated using share prices and exchange rates. For privately held assets, Forbes Asia estimates what they would be worth if public. Forbes ignores "princelings" who have amassed wealth, much of it hidden, though military and political connections. The Shanghai-based Hurun Report is put together by one Rupert Hoogewerf. Hurun calls its list a “snapshot” of wealth. It only includes mainlanders.The magazine Euromoney also puts out a list of the richest people in China.

Hurun Report ; Forbes Rich Chinese List ; Forbes Lists ; Expert: Huang Yasheng, who teaches at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is an expert on Chinese entrepreneurs.

Chinese Billionaires in 2021

Despite the coronavirus, the ten richest billionaires in China roughly doubled their fortunes compared to 2019. In 2020, China was home to 626 billionaires — up from 388 in 2019 — and is second only to the U.S., which has 724 billionaires. China’s soaring stock market and quick recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic led to 205 newcomers, while another 53 who had dropped off the list in previous years made the cut this go-around. China’s count does not include Hong Kong and Macao, which Forbes lists separately.[Source: Jennifer Wang. Forbes, April 6, 2021]

Jennifer Wang wrote in Forbes: Not only does China have more billionaires than ever, its richest have bigger fortunes. The 626 Chinese billionaires’ collective net worth of $2.5 trillion is more than double last year’s total, when the Chinese moguls on the list were worth $1.2 trillion. The average net worth of a billionaire from the eastern nation is $4 billion—a 33 percent jump from last year. Together the top ten are worth $447 billion, nearly double the $224 billion they had a year ago. Chinese billionaires now account for nearly a fifth of the total wealth of the list, which has 2,755 billionaires with a collective net worth of $13.1 trillion.

“The biggest winner, in both dollar and percentage terms, is bottled water magnate Zhong Shanshan, who is up $66.9 billion in the past year after he took Nongfu Spring public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Zhong, who reportedly dropped out of school at age 12 and once worked as a construction worker and erectile dysfunction pill salesman, founded the beverage firm in 1996. He still owns 84 percent of the firm.

“Some top 10 mainstays have had a tumultuous year but still ended up richer. Jack Ma, who cofounded e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba, has seen his company come under increasing scrutiny by the Chinese Communist Party, as the government seeks to crack down on big tech. His fintech giant Ant Group, which was planning a record-setting dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong, also saw its IPO pulled by regulators just days ahead of its November 5 debut. But with lockdowns driving a surge in online shopping, Ma is still $9.6 billion richer than last year, though he fell from being China’s richest person to No. 4. Social media maven Zhang Yiming also had to navigate some turbulent political waters. His short video app sensation TikTok was ordered to sell its U.S. operations by former president Donald Trump, though the new Biden administration has reportedly put those plans on ice. In December, TikTok parent company Bytedance raised another $2 billion at a $180 billion valuation, boosting Zhang’s net worth by $19.4 billion.”

Ten Richest Chinese Billionaires in 2021

1) Zhong Shanshan. Nongfu Spring Chairman — Net Worth: $68.9 Billion from beverages. Hometown: Hangzhou. According to Forbes: The September 2020 IPO of his bottled-water firm, Nongfu Spring, drove up his fortune by 3,345 percent, making him the year’s biggest percentage gainer and China’s new richest person. Zhong also chairs Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy, which went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April 2020. [Source: Jennifer Wang. Forbes, April 6, 2021]

2) Ma Huateng, Head of Tencent — Net Worth: $65.8 Billion from Internet and Media. Hometown: Shenzhen. According to Forbes: His web-media giant,Tencent, which owns stakes in Tesla, Snap and Spotify, notched another win with the February public offering of video-sharing app Kuaishou. Tencent, which is best known for its messaging and social media app WeChat, owns 18 percent of the Hong Kong listed firm.

3) Colin Zheng Huang, Pingduoduo CEO and Founder — Net Worth: $55.3 Billion from E-COMMERCE. Hometown: Shanghai. According to Forbes: The founder of online discounter Pinduoduo stepped down as its chairman in March to pursue research in food and life sciences; he gave up his CEO role last July. In 2020, Pinduoduo surpassed Alibaba as China’s most popular e-commerce company with 788.4 million users, just five years after Huang launched the firm. The latter’s annual revenue ($72 billion) still dwarfs Pinduoduo’s ($9.1 billion).

4) Jack Ma, Alibaba — Net Worth: $48.4 Billion from E-Commerce. Hometown: Hangzhou. Forbes: The Alibaba cofounder has been lying low since the dual listing of his fintech giant, Ant Group, was halted by Chinese regulators in November. His e-commerce empire is also under pressure; Chinese regulators launched an anti-monopoly investigation into the company in December.

5) Wang Wei, S.F. Express — Net Worth: $39 Billion from package delivery. Hometown: Shenzhen. Forbes: Revenue of his S.F. Express —the “FedEx of China” —rose 37 percent in 2020 as e-commerce boomed during China’s Covid-19 lockdowns. Wang founded the company in 1993 and took it public on the Shenzhen Stock exchange 24 years later through a reverse merger; he still owns nearly 60 percent of the stock.

6) He Xiangjian, Midea Group — Net Worth: $37.7 Billion from home appliances. Hometown: Foshan. Forbes: The cofounder of electric-appliance maker Midea Group reportedly escaped a kidnapping attempt last June, when several men tried to break into his home using explosives. His son allegedly got out of the house and swam across a river to alert the authorities. He, who stepped down as Midea’s chairman in 2012, still owns a controlling stake with his family.

7) Zhang Yiming, Tiktok and ByteDance Digital Media Company— Net Worth: $35.6 Billion from TikTok. Hometown: Beijing Forbes: Zhang founded ByteDance, creator of popular short-video app TikTok, in a four-bedroom apartment in 2012. The company first hit it big with news aggregator app Toutiao in China, before taking the world by storm with TikTok. A December funding round valued the unicorn at $180 billion.

8) Qin Yinglin and Family, Muyuan Foodstuff Co — Net Worth: $33.5 Billion from pig breeding. Hometown: Nanyang. Qin founded China’s top hog producer,Muyuan Foodstuff Co., in 1992 with wife Qian Ying and just 22 pigs. The group now has 140,000 employees and produced over 18 million pigs in 2020. Qin is chairman, while Qian, who is also a billionaire, sits on the board.

9) William Lei Ding, NetEase — Net Worth: $33 Billion from online games. Hometown: Hangzhou. Forbes: Revenue at his Nasdaq-listed NetEase rose 24 percent in 2020 as pandemic lockdowns drove demand for its online-gaming and remote-learning products. The company’s pipeline of games include “Harry Potter: Magic Awakened,” “The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War” and “Pokémon Quest.”

10) Yang Huiyan and Family, Country Garden Holdings — Net Worth: $29.6 Billion from real estate. Hometown: Foshan Forbes: The heiress is the largest shareholder of real estate developer Country Garden Holdings. Her stake was transferred to her from her father Yeung Kwok Keung, who founded the company and still serves as the chairman. The younger Yang chairs U.S.-listed education firm Bright Scholar Education Holdings.

Zhong Shanshan Now Richer Than Warren Buffett

Zhong Shanshan, the chairman of Nongfu Spring Co., a bottled-water company that’s ubiquitous in China, is now richer than Warren Buffett as his fortune surged $13.5 billion since the start of 2021 to $91.7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bloomberg reported: Zhong, 66, is now the sixth-wealthiest person on the planet. Nongfu shares jumped 18 percent in the first two trading days of 2021, taking the advance since their September listing to more than 200 percent. It’s only the second time a Chinese national has broken into the world’s Top 10-property tycoon Wang Jianlin hit No. 8 in 2015-and no one from the mainland has ever ranked this high on Bloomberg’s wealth index since it launched in 2012. [Source: Venus Feng and Pei Yi Mak, Bloomberg, January 6, 2021]

“Nicknamed locally as the “Lone Wolf” for avoiding involvement in clubby business groups or politics, Zhong also took vaccine maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co. public in April. The stock has soared more than 2, 800 percent. Zhong dethroned India’s Mukesh Ambani as Asia’s wealthiest person last week and is close to entering the rarefied realm of individuals worth more than $100 billion. Buffett is outside that group with an $86.2 billion fortune, but the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. founder has given away more than $37 billion of stock since 2006.

“Investors are snapping up Chinese consumer shares as the country demonstrates it’s recovering from Covid-19, while analysts have grown increasingly bullish on Nongfu. Zhong has also helped four relatives become billionaires. His younger sister, Zhong Xiaoxiao, and three of his wife’s siblings each hold a 1.4 percent stake in Nongfu worth $1.3 billion, based on the ownership listed in the company’s prospectus from last year. The firm has produced dozens of millionaires, including more of Zhong’s relatives and employees.

“While Covid-19 upended much of the global economy in 2020, it was a good year for the world’s ultra-rich. The 500 wealthiest people added $1.8 trillion to their fortunes and were worth a combined $7.6 trillion by year-end. Zhong, the biggest winner from Asia, amassed more than $71 billion, the most after Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and Inc.’s Jeff Bezos. One notable exception is Jack Ma, until recently Asia’s richest person. He’s not been seen in public since Chinese regulators torpedoed Ant Group Co.’s $35 billion initial public offering. His net worth has dropped about $10 billion since October and he’s now the world’s 25th-richest person.

Chinese Billionaires in the 2010s and 2000s

According to Forbes China list released in October 2010 the number of billionaires soared to 128 from 79 in 2010. There were 42 Chinese billionaires on the 2009 Forbes list. According to Forbes the combined wealth of the 40 richest people in China was $38 billion in 2006 — up 46 percent from 2005. Consumer goods, Internet and property tycoons dominated the Hurun Rich List in 2011. Of the 50 richest Chinese on the Forbes list in 2005 half relied on real estate for a substantial amount of their wealth. Of the 100 richest Chinese on the 2001 Forbes list, 73 had their education interrupted by the Cultural revolution and 16 were rabbits on the Chinese zodiac. Only four were signs of the monkey.

The entire Hurun Rich List in 2010 named 1,363 people with wealth of at least 1 billion yuan (about $150 million). According to Hoogewerf’s calculations the average age of China’s billionaires in 39. He told the Washington Post. “They are still in wealth-creation mode, focused more on expanding their own company, especially because the economy is growing so fast.” Many of them want to keep a low profile so as not to draw too much scrutiny to their wealth or company dealings. Credit Suisse has estimated that China’s wealthy have up to $1.4 trillion of corruption-tainted cash socked away.

According to Hurun Report, the number of billionaires in China exceeded 100 in 2007 (Forbes counted 66) with 35 of them real estate tycoons. There were only 15 in 2006. China is now No. 2 in the world on the billionaire’s list. The United States has the most. The high number of billionaires is both a source of pride and cause for alarm in China, where many people still earn less than $500 a year and feel neglected and cheated.

China’s Richest People in 2015

Jack Ma

1) Jack Ma — Net Worth as March 2015: $22 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $19.5 Billion; Age: 50; Source Of Wealth: e-commerce, Self Made; Residence: Hangzhou, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Hangzhou Teacher's Institute; Jack Ma on Forbes Lists: No. 33 Billionaires; No. 2 in China; No. 122 in 2014; No. 30 Powerful People; No. 1 China Rich List. Former English teacher Ma captured the world stage like no other Chinese businessman in September 2014 with the record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering of his e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group on the New York Stock Exchange. His Ant Financial Services Group, is pushing beyond its Alipay online payment business into financial services, including a consumer money market fund and a private bank. Ma has said he plans to take it public in China. He also has more than a dozen other investments, from a stake in a soccer team to a film production studio. An active philanthropist, he sits on the board of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences with fellow billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner. Ma has claimed that he got rejected from Harvard 10 times. [Source: Forbes]

2) Robin Li — Net Worth as March 2015: $14.8 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $14.7 Billion; Founder and CEO, Baidu; Age: 46; Source Of Wealth: internet search, Self Made; Residence: Beijing, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Children: 4; Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Peking University; Master of Arts, University at Buffalo; Robin Li on Forbes Lists: No. 62 Billionaires; No. 5 in China; No. 91 in 2014; No. 41 Powerful People; No. 2 China Rich List. Robin Li is the CEO of Nasdaq-listed Baidu, China's largest online search company. Through acquisitions, Baidu has bolstered its wireless business, and it is working full speed on the next generation of search through voice and image recognition. After getting an undergraduate degree in information science, Li obtained a master's degree in computer science in the U.S. in 1994, and worked as a consultant at a subsidiary of Dow Jones. He later joined search engine InfoSeek in Silicon Valley as a senior engineer. Li cofounded Baidu in China in 2000. He has become more involved in politics; in 2013 he became a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

3) Ma Huateng — Net Worth as March 2015: $16.5 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $14.4 Billion; Age: 43; Source Of Wealth: internet media, Self Made; Residence: Shenzhen, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Shenzhen University; Ma Huateng on Forbes Lists: No. 56 Billionaires; No. 4 in China; No. 80 in 2014; No. 53 Powerful People; No. 3 China Rich List. Ma Huateng, also known as "Pony" Ma, turned Chinese Internet firm Tencent into a giant on the back of profits generated from online games, offering them alongside free services like messaging. Tencent's weChat mobile texting service has attracted nearly 440 million users who are introduced to Tencent's revenue-generating offerings. In the past two years, the company has taken stakes in logistics firm China South City and e-commerce firm to make more inroads in e-commerce. Ma, chairman and CEO of Tencent, has made good use of his computer science degree, obtained from Shenzhen University in 1993.

4) Wang Jianlin — Net Worth as March 2015: $24.2 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $13.2 Billion; Age: 60; Source Of Wealth: real estate, Self Made; Residence: Beijing, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Children: 1; Education: Liaoning University; Wang Jianlin on Forbes Lists: No. 29 Billionaires; No. 1 in China; No. 64 in 2014; No. 4 China Rich List, Wang Jianlin runs Dalian Wanda Group, a commercial real estate powerhouse that controls more than 200 department stores, shopping plazas and luxury hotels. In August 2014 he formed a joint venture with Internet giants Baidu and Tencent to set up an e-commerce company called Wanda E-Commerce and announced investment projects in Beverly Hills, Australia and Chicago. In December 2014 he raised $3.7 billion when he listed his crown jewel, Wanda Commercial Properties, in Hong Kong. Born in Sichuan Province in 1954 just after the Communist revolution, in 1970 he entered the military, where he remained until 1986 when he took a city government job in Dalian in Liaoning Province. He became chairman of Wanda, which was government-run, in 1989 at age 35. [Source: Forbes]

5) Li Hejun — Net Worth as March 2015: $30.2 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $13 Billion; Age: 47; Source Of Wealth: renewable energy, Self Made; Residence: Beijing, China; Citizenship: China; Li Hejun on Forbes Lists: No. 38 Billionaires; No. 3 in China; No. 117 in 2014; No. 5 China Rich List. Hanergy Holdings Chairman Li Hejun continues to focus on driving down the cost of thin-film solar technology. After purchasing three Western thin-film solar businesses in 2013, he added a fourth, Alta Devices of California, in 2014, and is benefiting from government incentives for the industry. Li grew up in Guangdong Province, made his early money in the electronics trade in Beijing and started expanding into hydropower. His company runs one of the world's largest privately owned hydropower plants in western China's Yunnan Province. In 2014 he published his first book, "China's New Energy Revolution."

6) Zong Qinghou: — Net Worth as March 2015: $10.6 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $11 Billion; Age: 69; Source Of Wealth: beverages, Self Made; Residence: Hangzhou, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Children: 1; Zong Qinghou on Forbes Lists: No. 124 Billionaires; No. 7 in China; No. 94 in 2014; No. 6 China Rich List. Zong Qinghou founded beverage producer Hangzhou Wahaha Group as a store in a children's school in the city of Hangzhou in 1987. Shipments of bottled water and tea drinks remain the core of the privately held company's success and Zong's wealth. Daughter Kelly, the heir apparent, is group president.

7) Wang Wenyin — Net Worth as March 2015: $10.7 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $10 Billion; Age: 47; Source Of Wealth: mining, copper products, Self Made; Residence: Shenzhen, China; Citizenship: China; Wang Wenyin on Forbes Lists: No. 125 Billionaires; No. 8 in China; No. 354 in 2014; No. 7 China Rich List. Wang Wenyin chairs Amer International Group, a supplier of cable and copper products that also has mining interests. Sales in 2013 totaled $38 billion. Amer operates 6 industrial parks in Shenzhen and employs 15,000 people. [Source: Forbes]

8) Lei Jun — Net Worth as March 2015: $13.3 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $9.1 Billion; Age: 45; Source Of Wealth: smartphones, Self Made; Residence: Beijing, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Children: 2; Education: Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Wuhan University; Lei Jun on Forbes Lists: No. 87 Billionaires; No. 6 in China; No. 375 in 2014; No. 8 China Rich List. Known by many as the Steve Jobs of China, black-jeans-and-t-shirt-wearing Lei Jun co-founded fast-growing mobile phone maker Xiaomi in 2010 with his friend and fellow billionaire Lin Bin. Xiaomi has become hugely popular because its phones offer the high power of rivals at a much lower price. A serial entrepreneur, he also chairs gaming company Kingsoft. Its spinoff, Cheetah Mobile, which provides mobile application software, went public in New York in May 2014. Another company backed by Lei, Internet services supplier Xunlei, went public on the Nasdaq in June 2014. He also chairs U.S.-traded YY, a Chinese social site he co-founded. He sits on the board of Wuhan University, where he earned a BA in computer science in 1991.

9) He Xiangjian — Net Worth as March 2015: $10.1 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $7.5 Billion; Age: 72; Source Of Wealth: home appliances, Self Made; Residence: Foshan, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Children: 3. He Xiangjian on Forbes Lists: No. 125 Billionaires; No. 8 in China; No. 190 in 2014; No. 9 China Rich List, He Xiangjian appliance maker Midea Group with 23 locals in the village of Beijiao in 1968. Today the publicly traded company is one of China's largest household appliance manufacturers. He Xiangjian stepped down from daily operations in 2012. In May 2014 Midea raised $60 million in a U.S. debt sale.

10) Liu Qiangdong — Net Worth as March 2015: $7.9 Billion; 2014 China Rich List Net Worth: $7.1 Billion; Age: 40; Source Of Wealth: e-commerce, Self Made; Residence: Beijing, China; Citizenship: China; Marital Status: Married; Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Renmin University of China; Liu Qiangdong on Forbes Lists: No. 179 Billionaires; No. 11 in China; No. 642 in 2014; No. 10 China Rich List. Liu Qiangdong's net worth has surged from $2.7 billion in February 2014 following a successful listing on NASDAQ in May 2014 of his Chinese online shopping firm,, where he is chairman and CEO. was China's largest online direct sales company in terms of transaction volume in 2013, with revenues of $11.5 billion and market share in China of nearly 47 percent. Liu's first business was a restaurant he operated as a college senior, using startup money he made from computer programming and tutoring students. Although the restaurant business failed, Liu started building the predecessor to in Beijing in 1998. In 2004 he launched his first online retail website.

China’s Richest People in 2013 and 2014

20111105-Wikicommons  Robin Li 2010.jpg
Baidu's Robin Li
Forbes List of China’s richest in 2014 (ranking, name, worth, age in 2014, origin of wealth): 1) Jack Ma: $19.5 billion; 50; e-commerce; 2) Robin Li: $14.7 billion; 46; internet search; 3) Ma Huateng: $14.4 billion; 43; internet media; 4) Wang Jianlin: $13.2 billion; 60; real estate; 5) Li Hejun: $13 billion; 47; renewable energy; 6) Zong Qinghou: $11 billion; 69; beverages; 7) Wang Wenyin: $10 billion; 47; metals; 8) Lei Jun: $9.1 billion; 45; smartphones; 9) He Xiangjian: $7.5 billion; 72; appliances; 10) Liu Qiangdong: $7.1 billion; 40; e-commerce; 11) Liu Yongxing: $6.5 billion; 66; agribusiness; 12) Wang Jing: $6.4 billion; 42; telecommunications; 13) Chan Laiwa: $6.1 billion; 74; real estate; 14) Wei Jianjun: $6 billion; 51; automobiles; 15) Hui Ka Yan: $5.9 billion; 56; real estate; 16) Hui Wing Mau: $5.4 billion; 64; real estate; 16) Lu Guanqiu: $5.4 billion; 70; diversified; 18) Zhang Zhidong: $5.2 billion; 43; internet media; 19) William Ding: $4.9 billion; 43; online games; 19) Yang Huiyan: $4.9 billion; 33; real estate. [Source: Forbes]

Forbes List of China’s richest in 2013 (ranking, name, worth, age in 2014, origin of wealth): 1) Wang Jianlin: $14.1 billion ; 59; real estate; 2) Zong Qinghou; $11.2 billion; 68; beverages; 3) Robin Li: $11.1 billion; 45; Internet search; 4) Li Hejun: $10.9 billionl 46; renewable energy; 5) Ma Huateng: $10.2 billion; 42; internet; 6) Wei Jianjun & family: $9 billion; 50; automobiles; 7) Yang Huiyan: $7.2 billion; 32; real estate; 8) Jack Ma: $7.1 billion; 49; internet; 9) He Xiangjian: $6.8 billion; 71; appliances; 10) Liu Yongxing: $6.1 billion; 66; agribusiness. [Source: Forbes, October 15, 2013]

Hurun China rich list 2014: 1) Jack Ma Yun & family with $25 billion; 2) Wang Jianlin & family with $24.2 billion; 3) Li Hejun with $20.8 billion; 4) Zong Qinghou & family with $20.8 billion; 5) Pony Ma Huateng, with $18.1 billion; 6) Robin Li Yanhong & Melissa Ma Dongmin with $17.5 billion; 7) Yan Jiehe & Yan Hao, with $14.2 billion; 8) Yan Bin, $10 billion; 9) Richard Liu Qiangdong, $8.8 billion; 10) Lei Jun, with $7.5 billion.[Source: Hurun Rich List 2014 sponsored by Hainan Clearwater Bay of Agile]

In 2014, Jack Ma of Alibaba at age 50 became the 11th Number One in 16 years of the Hurun Rich List, with a fortune of US$25 billion, surpassing Wang Jianlin of Wanda in second place with US$24.2 billion. Despite the scale of Alibaba’s IPO, only Jack Ma and one other shareholder make the list, Xie Shihuang. There were five new faces in the Top 10: Jack Ma, Li Hejun, Yan Jiehe, Liu Qiangdong and Lei Jun.‘Renewable Energy King’ Li Hejun, 47, of Hanergy makes the Top 3 for the first time, with US$20.8 billion. [Source: Hurun Rich List 2014 sponsored by Hainan Clearwater Bay of Agile, September 23, 2014]

There are 354 dollar billionaires, up 39 on last year. Ten years ago there were only three, Twelve percent are self-made women, led by Chen Lihua, 73, the most successful businesswoman in the world. Three of the Top 6 speak fluent English: Jack Ma, Li Hejun and Robin Li, demonstrating the globalization of the Chinese private sector. A total of 819 saw their wealth grow (last year 672) of which 343 (last year 115) were new faces. Total wealth comes to US$1.4 trillion, more than the GDP of countries like Spain or South Korea.

Twenty-six are under forty and self-made, two of whom are dollar billionaires: Chen Ou, 31, of Jumei with US$1.5 billion, and 34-year old Zhang Bangxin, 34, of TAL Education worth US$1.05 billion. Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher said, “The entrepreneurial spirit that has caught China seems not to be abetting, with 8 self-made individuals born in the eighties making the list. Any country would be proud of that.”

IT has seen the biggest boom. 5 of the Top 10 are in IT. It’s been a good year for entertainment, investments, cars, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing. It has been a bad year for steel and shipping. Manufacturing and real estate are the primary source of wealth for almost half the list. Social Media. 7 of the Top 10 on the Hurun Rich List are amongst the most popular social media bloggers, showing the huge impact these individuals are having in China. Real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi is the newly-crowned ‘social media king’ with 27m followers, followed by actor and investor Jet Li.

Eight of the Fortune Global 500 are controlled by people from the Hurun Rich List, led by Yan Jiehe of China Pacific Construction, which came in at Number 166. Wang Jianlin of Wanda and Guo Guangchang of Fosun have been leading the global charge of the Hurun Rich List. Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher said, “The Hurun Rich List has seen more action on the international front than in the previous 15 years added together.”

Residences: Beijing is the city of choice to live in with 180 individuals living there, 40 more than last year. Shanghai, surprisingly, comes in third behind Shenzhen again. Chinese star signs. It has been a good year for dragons and oxen, and a bad year for rats and pigs. Rabbits lead the way for the umpteenth year. The richest man, Jack Ma, is a dragon, traditionally viewed as one of the most powerful of the Chinese star signs. Wang Jianlin is a horse.

Anti-corruption campaign. 18 of last year’s list are in varying degrees of trouble with the authorities, of which 11 still made the list this year. Political appointments. 166 of the Hurun Rich List, up 13 from last year, are either delegates to the 12th NPC or CPPCC. 7 are members of the standing committee of the 12th National People’s Congress, 8 are vice chairmen of the All-China Federation of Industry and Trade. 40 percent of the Top 50, almost triple the average on the list, have senior political appointments.

China's Three Richest Men in 2014 in Trouble in 2015

Hanergy chairman Li Hejun, China’s richest man in 2014 by some measures, lost $15 billion in one hour in 2015, when China's two three richest men were also in trouble. Sophia Yan of CNN wrote: “Li Hejun made his fortune in the clean energy sector, while Wang Jianlin made big bucks in property and entertainment. Jack Ma is the driving force behind Alibaba, one of the world's largest tech companies. But the trio of self-made multi-billionaires are all facing sticky business situations that are hitting their bank accounts. [Source: Sophia Yan, CNN, June 3, 2015]

Here's what's going on: Li Hejun, founder and CEO of Hanergy, has been at the center of a bizarre scenario: Stock in his company, Hanergy Thin Film Solar, plummeted by 47 percent in a single hour of trading in late May 2015. Hanergy lost almost $19 billion in market capitalization as a result, and Li's stake dropped by as much as $15 billion in value, according to data compiled by CNNMoney.It later emerged that Li had upped his own short position in Hanergy just days before the drop. Based on available information, a CNNMoney estimate shows that his short position wouldn't have been enough to offset major losses. Investors taking a short position borrow shares to sell, betting they'll turn a profit by buying back the shares once prices drop. Since then, Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission has confirmed that it is investigating the company. Hanergy has largely remained silent on the issue, as questions continue to pile up.

“Li had quickly climbed the wealth ranks in China as Hanergy stock soared — shares surged 625 percent over the past year prior to the crash. The astonishing rise prompted scrutiny by media and analysts who probed the company's accounting practices and sales. It was revealed earlier this year that Hanergy Thin Film got about 60 percent of its business from its Beijing-based parent company. Before Hanergy's tumble, Li was estimated to be worth $26 billion and was China's richest man, according to the Hurun Report.

Wang Jianlin is chairman of Dalian Wanda, which owns AMC Entertainment (AMC) and was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for an anti-competitive practice known as "film clearances." Under the practice, theaters allegedly tell Hollywood film studios they won't show certain movies if competitors located nearby also screen the films. AMC is one of the largest chains in the U.S. with 4, 972 screens, and smaller multiplexes say the company has used the tactic to steal their business. Wang was estimated to be worth $25 billion in February, 2015 making him China's second-richest man, according to Hurun.

Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba in his tiny apartment in 1999, led the company to a record-breaking IPO in 2014. But Alibaba has been plagued by counterfeits on its e-commerce shopping platforms. Alibaba has pledged to fight this "cancer, " as Ma has described it, taking down millions of product listings and introducing a "three-strikes" policy for sellers on Taobao, one of Alibaba's shopping sites. But that hasn't been enough to keep scrutiny — or lawsuits — at bay.

In 2015, the Chinese government released a scathing report that accused Alibaba of turning a blind eye to illegal activity, and failing to police its online marketplaces. The company was "far too lax" in its business operations, allowing some merchants to sell counterfeit goods, from designer bags to smartphones, according to the State Administration of Industry and Commerce. While the report was eventually removed from the SAIC website, it still angered investors. Alibaba now faces a class action lawsuit in the U.S. for failing to disclose to investors that it was meeting with the regulator. Alibaba has also been sued a second time by Kering, a luxury brands group that includes Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, over counterfeits. Alibaba shares have dropped in New York nearly 13 in 2015 as May. Ma's wealth was estimated at $24.5 billion in February 2015.

China’s Richest People in 2010 and 2011

Beverage tycoon Zong Qinghou was named the richest man in China on the Forbes China list in October 2010. The founder of China’s largest soft drink maker, Hangzhou Wahaha Group, Zong moved up from No. 3 the year before with assets of $8 billion.Baidu’s Robin Li was listed as China’s second richest man by Forbes in 2010. According to the Hurun Rich List released in October 2010, Zong was No. 1, with an estimated worth of around $12 billion. He moved up from 12th the previous year. Following Zong on the 2010 Hurun list were: 2) Li Li, founder of drug maker Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical; 3) Zhang Yin,, founder of the paper recycling giant Nine Dragons Paper; 4) Liang Wegen of Sany Heavy Industries; and 5) a tie between Robin Li of search engine and Yan Bin of Ruoy Chai International, whose brands include Red Bull energy drinks.

In 2011, Forbes reported: “Despite a cooling of its red-hot economy and volatility in the stock market this year, China continues to produce a record number of billionaires — 146, up 18 from 2010, according to the latest China Rich List compiled by Forbes Asia. Total wealth of the richest 400 people on the mainland is US$459 billion, an increase of 8 percent from $423.2 billion before, but only 4 percent in local currency terms. Of the 146 tycoons with a 10-digit net worth, 12 are female, eight are under the age of 40 with 29-year old Yang Huiyan, who was gifted with 70 percent of Country Garden Holdings by her father, the youngest of them all. Beijing leads this year with the most number of billionaire residents (25), followed by Shenzhen and Hong Kong with 13 each, and Shanghai, 11. [Source: Forbes, September 8, 2011]

Liang Wengen, 54, Chairman of construction equipment manufacturer, Sany Heavy Industry, is the richest person in China with a net worth of $9.3 billion, moving up from third place last year when he was worth $5.9 billion. Robin Li ranks a close second with a net worth of $9.2 billion, up from $7.2 billion a year ago. Li retains the no. 2 spot he held on the list last year. Coming in third is Liu Yongxing, another self-made tycoon whose Hope Group is one of the largest animal feed maker in China. His $6.8 billion wealth this time helped him jump four runs up the league table from last year when his net worth of $4.9 billion made him the seventh richest in the country. His brother, Liu Yonghao, three years younger at 60, took fourth place with his $6.6 billion wealth. 2010's richest, Zong Qinghou, Chairman of beverage giant, Wahaha, saw his ranking drop to no. 5, with a net worth of $6.5 billion, down from $8 billion last year.

Commenting on the list, Zhou Jiangong, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes China, said: “The growth of the total wealth of the 400 listees is slowing down for some reasons: tight policies, cost increase, currency appreciation, crowding-out by state-owned enterprises, as well as the weakness and risks of international market. “However, the private sector is resilient as it is more diversified and sophisticated. There are now fewer entrepreneurs from real estate and mining industries than from advanced manufacturing, high-tech, service-related, and consumption-oriented industries.”

The top 10 richest in China in 2011 were: 1) Liang Wengen; US$9.3 billion; 2) Robin Li; $9.2 billion; 3) Liu Yongxing; $6.8 billion; 4) Liu Yonghao & family; $6.6 billion; 5) Zong Qinghou; $6.5 billion; 6) Hui Ka Yan; $6.2 billion; 7) Wu Yajun & husband; $5.9 billion; 8) Zhang Jindong; $5.6 billion; 9) He Xiangjian; $5.5 billion; 10) Qiu Guanghe & family; $4.8 billion.

Richest People in China in the 2000s

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Yang Huiyan and Yang Kwokkeung,
In 2007, 20 of the 40 names on Forbes magazine list of the richest people in China were there for the first time. The top three were property tycoons whose net work had skyrocketed in the previous year. Others on the list made fortunes when the values of their companies soared during stock-buying frenzies.

In 2006, 36 of the 500 richest people in China were women. These included metals trader Chen Ningning and her mother in 29th place, with $800 million; Beijing property developer Chen Lihua, listed at number 25 with $750 million; and Yang Lan of Sunmeadia Investment, a television personality turned business woman with $500 million. By one count six of the 10 richest self-made women in the world are from China.

Among the super-rich in the Internet and media world are Robin Li, the CEO and founder of, whose net worth was valued at $2.4 billion in 2007, making him richer than Jerry Yang of Yahoo; Ma Huaten of, worth $1.9 billion; and Jason Jiang, founder of Focus Media, worth $1.1 billion in 2007.

Jiang told the New York Times he is motivated by his desire to create the “greatest media company in the world” and says he has no time for anything but work. He works from 8:00am to 2:00am and says he never feels tired. He eats lunch at his desk, usually a $2.50 take-out meal.

The fortunes of the rich in China rise and fall like bouncing balls. Online game mogul Chen Tianqiao was worth an estimated $1.05 billion in 2005 when he was 31, after his Shada International Entertainment Ltd went public on the Nasdaq Stock Market and its shares quadrupled in several months. A year and a half later his net worth was reduced by around half after the stock collapsed because of competition in the online gaming industry but he was still worth around $500 million in May 2006.

Most of China’s super rich are publicity-shy. They rarely grant interviews and little is known about them or what they do with all their money. Forbes and other business magazines and reports have to hunt to find them. When they do talk they tend to talk more about their $2 haircuts than lavish possessions. Perhaps they are reminded of the old Chinese proverb: Fame portends trouble for men, just as fattening does a pig.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Forbes, Yang Huiyan and her family, China Daily;

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2021

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