As one of the manufacturing powers of the world, it is no surprise that China produces its fair share of multi-billionaires. And while 2012 was no walk in the park for the top brass of China’s enterprise—the Shanghai Stock Exchange suffered a fall of 23%—the 11 wealthiest people of the People’s Republic are surely no stranger when it comes to these kinds of difficulties. After all, almost all of them came from humble beginnings. The following countdown will let you get to know them better; and perhaps be inspired to work harder.
11 11th Place: Yang Huiyan—$5.2 billion
Yang Huiyan is living proof that women can make it big in business. She holds the majority of shares of the Guangdong-based property development company Country Garden Holdings. The company’s focus on developing residential properties for the upper class, as well as their huge IPO several years ago made some of its shareholders billionaires—including Yang Huiyan’s father and founder of the company Yang Guoqiang.
10 10th Place: Chen Lihua—$5.4 billion
Chen Lihua made herself a billionaire out of her own efforts—our 10th richest person in China was actually born in poverty. After graduating from high school in Beijing, Chen founded a manufacturing business, and then traveled to Hong Kong to invest in real estate. One decade later, she came back to Beijing and started what was to become a multi-billion dollar company: Fu Wah International Group.
9 9th Place: Xu Jiayin—$5.5 billion
As chairman of one of the most prominent real estate developers in Guangdong and in the whole of mainland China, there is no surprise that Xu Jiayin belongs to the richest of the rich in China. Aside from being the head honcho of a multi-billion dollar company, Xu leads several key business organizations in China, such as the China Entrepreneur Association, the China Real Estate Association, and the China Enterprise Confederation.
8 8th Place: Wu Yajun—$6 billion
Meet the richest woman in the world. Wu Yajun, a former journalist, has founded the incredibly successful real estate development company Longfor Properties. The success of this self-made billionaire is sometimes attributed to her low-key and humble attitude when it comes to business—she is popular for her “Principle of 3 Nos:” no autographs, no interviews, and no TV appearances.
7 7th Place: Ma Huateng—$6.5 billion
In 1998, Ma Huateng (nicknamed “Pony”) built a company that in a few years became “China’s answer to AOL.” Tencent Inc., and its widely popular instant messenger Tencent QQ, did not only become China’s answer to AOL, but also to Yahoo, Skype, and probably even killed mIRC. Today, the company widened its reach and continues to bring forth popular web utilities and entertainment, such as multiplayer games and e-commerce sites.The popularity of Tencent’s techonological innovations made Ma Huateng’s net worth skyrocket to billion-dollar proportions—$6.5 billion, to be precise.
6 6th Place: Liu Yongxing—$7.1 billion
If you think old businesses such as agriculture don’t have a place on this list, think again. Liu Yongxing, the 6th richest person in China, made his fortune selling animal feed. Liu’s company called the East Hope Group started from a small quail-breeding business, and has now grown into the largest animal-feed producer in China. His company also produces industrial products, such as aluminum and plastic.
5 5th Place: Liang Wengen—$7.3 billion
Liang Wengen is the Chairman and founder of the Sany Group, a construction and heavy machinery manufacturer. Aside from being one of the big heavy industry manufacturers in the world, Liang’s company holds several world records in the concrete pump machinery field. One such record that the Sany Group holds is for creating a rotary drilling machine that has the largest tonnage. This year, his billion-dollar fortune has been chipped by a tiny fraction, presumably caused by buying out the German machinery company Putzmeister Holdings during a time when the share prices of Sany was dropping.
4 4th Place: Yan Bin—$7.9 billion
The 4th wealthiest person in China might be the walking proof of his products’ effectiveness—after all, self-made billionaires probably has no time for sleep. Yan Bin is the chairman and rights holder of Red Bull Energy Drink in China. Yan, a Thai-Chinese businessman, founded the Reignwood group in Thailand back in 1984. What started as a simple general trader and contract operations grew into a multinational enterprise. The Reignwood group, still headed by Yan Bin, now has dominion over four sectors: financial services, sports and culture, consumer goods, and service industries.
3 3rd Place: Robin Li—$8 billion
If you think Google is the number one search engine all over the world, you haven’t been to China. There, Baidu reigns as the search engine king. Founded by the charismatic Robin Li, Baidu is not something as simple as China’s counterpart to Google. Think of it as a fusion of Google, Wikipedia, Ask Yahoo, YouTube, Craigslist, eBay, Reddit, and more. Mr. Li has also proven that he is not only business-savvy, but also incredibly smart; in fact, he has been named by the Asian Scientist Magazine as one of the “15 Scientists to Watch.” Charisma, business skills, and a rather large capacity for innovation—no wonder Robin Li ranks as the 3rd wealthiest person in China at the young age of 43.
2 2nd Place: Wang Jianling—$10.3 billion
Working his way to the top is the Chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group, Wang Jianling. From humble beginnings as an office worker, he was able to work up his way to becoming the CEO of one of the largest retail estate companies, the Dalian Wanda Group. Wang Jianlings net worth spiked up 44% due to acquiring AMC entertainment, a US-based operator of movie theaters.
1 1st Place: Zong Qinghou and family—$12.6 billion
Drumrolls please, for the richest man in China: the “Drinks King” Zong Qihou. The man who owns Wahaha, the top beverage company in China came from incredibly humble beginnings. Zong Qihou had a fraction of formal education, working at a salt farm at a very young age. After working several menial jobs, he started selling milk at a mini-grocery. This seemingly small business is the beginning of what is now the Wahaha beverage empire.