China is second on Forbes list of richest
Updated: 2013-03-05 13:42
By Yu Wei in New York (China Daily)
China again finished with the second-highest number of billionaires on Forbes magazine's annual list.
Forbes' 2013 list of the world's richest people, published Monday, includes 122 billionaires from the Chinese mainland, 39 from Hong Kong and 26 from Taiwan.
Last year, 95 billionaires from the Chinese mainland made the list, down from 110 in 2011, due to depressed stock prices in the world's second-biggest economy.
Of the 1,426 billionaires on the list, 442 are from the United States, followed by China, Russia (110) and Germany (58).
The head of beverage giant Wahaha Group, Zong Qinghou, regained the title of richest man on the Chinese mainland. Zong ranked 86th on the Forbes list with a net worth of $11.6 billion, up 60 places from last year. He is the only Chinese mainland billionaire whose net worth exceeds $10 billion this year, according to Forbes.
Zong, 67, was followed by property tycoon Wang Jianlin (128th), whose Dalian Wanda Group acquired US movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings last year; and Liang Wengen (158th), founder of construction machinery maker Sany Group, which has been active with acquisitions in Europe and investment in the US.
Robin Li, chairman and CEO of search-engine giant Baidu Inc, was the fourth-richest in the Chinese mainland, ranking at 172, followed by his Internet peer Ma Huateng (173rd), chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd, the most valuable Internet company in China by market capitalization.
Zong, who is also a deputy in the National People's Congress, China's main legislative body, seemed unfazed by his status.
"I am a man making money from selling water, and everything about my company and myself is transparent, so I don't feel any pressure at all," Zong said at a news conference before the opening of the Congress' annual session.
Economic growth, urbanization and consumer spending have been the main drivers of China's growing ranks of super-rich.
Chinese gross domestic product increased 7.8 percent, to 51.9 trillion yuan ($8.2 trillion), in 2012. Although slower than the 9.3 percent recorded in 2011, the growth rate last year was still highest among the world's major economies.
China has maintained average annual GDP growth of more than 8 percent since 1980, to $8.2 trillion from $295 million. On a per capita basis, GDP was 30 higher times during that period, rising to $6,110 from $292.
Ann Lee, an adjunct professor of economics and finance at New York University and author of What the US Can Learn From China, said the rapid increase in the number of Chinese billionaires might not be a good thing, especially with income inequality a hot-button issue in the country.
"If Chinese policy makers do their job correctly, China's middle class will grow, but the number of billionaires should not grow as fast," she said.
The richest Chinese and their companies were aggressive in international markets last year.
Zong said on Sunday that Wahaha, which makes soft drinks and bottled water, will adopt different models for international cooperation and acquisition of a foreign company or investment.
"I am making milk powder with international dairy materials for other brands," he said. "This is a win-win business. If I acquire a foreign company and enter a foreign market, I may be driven out of that market. Some foreign markets are not doing well, but the Chinese are hard-working and can make money, so the local competitors will want to drive us out."
Wahaha disclosed last year that it was interested in buying dairy farms in Australia to secure milk sources, but no deal has been reached.
Ma, of Tencent, also said on Sunday that his company wants to make its Wechat, a cross-platform instant messaging service, the foundation for international expansion. The service has over 300 million users including 10,000 in the United States, where Tencent recently opened an office.