China now has more billionaires than US

BEIJING: Communist China has overtaken capitalist United States in the richie rich list with 596 billionaires to America’s 537. The stunning jump has taken place in the last one year — spurred by the rise of China’s riches in technology and manufacturing — despite a slowing economy, according to a survey released on Thursday.

If Hong Kong and Macau’s 119 billionaires were to be included, the number would swell to 717, according to wealth research firm Hurun Report. Though the World Bank recently reduced the forecast for China’s growth from 7.1% to 6.9% this year, its billionaires have risen by 32% or 242 in 2014-15.

“Despite the slowdown in the economy, China’s richest have defied gravity, recording their best year ever, and creating more wealth than any coun try has ever done before in a year,” Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf said.

The firm’s research has found total wealth of 1,877 super rich individuals hit $2.1 trillion, which is more than the GDP of several countries. It shows Jack Ma of e-commerce giant Alibaba has lost his position as the richest Chinese to real estate magnet, Wang Jianglin, who had held the position earlier. Wang’s fortune rose 52% to $34.4 billion after the value of his newly-listed cinema chain rose 10-fold in the stock market.

The report reflected the success of online retailing, entertainment and other service businesses, while traditional industries such as steel and natural resources have declined.

Following Wang and jack are Zeng Qinghou of the Wahaha soft drinks and mineral water empire with $21.2 billion. Ma Huateng of Tencent Ltd, operator of the popular WeChat social media service, is fourth; and, Jun Lei of smartphone maker Xiaomi is No 5.

New entrants to the rich list include Frank Wang, founder of DJI, the world’s biggest maker of civilian drones, with a net worth of $3.7 billion, and Cheng Wei of taxi-hailing app Didi-Kuaidi, with $1 billion.

Agencies said communist leaders are trying to steer the world’s second-largest economy to more self-sustaining growth driven by domestic consumption and service businesses to reduce reliance on trade, investment and heavy industry.