It seems that the power and potential of the Chinese economy is endless these days, but it's often difficult to quantify just what the impact this new-found wealth has on the People's Republic. The country famed for boasting the world’s largest population is equally well-known for its Communist regime and has garnered infamy over its controversial treatment of opponents of the government. Now, that same nation is becoming internationally recognized for its wealth and thriving economy. Certainly, the landscape of the country is changing: cities like Beijing and Shanghai are no longer the stand alone metropolises; secondary players such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Dalian are now major cities in their own right. Alongside this new-found wealth, the luxury goods industry in China has exploded with many luxury retail brands traditionally associated with London and Paris now looking to the East to secure their future fortune.
Of course, as the headlines often remind us, China isn't without its problems: while an elite group of the super-rich is clearly emerging, many of China’s citizens are yet to see the trickle-down effects of this booming economy. Millions are living in cramped apartments, commuting through dangerous levels of air pollution and working long hours for little pay. For those who have made it to the top however, the rewards are enromous; the majority of those featured on our top ten list all came from humble beginnings to rise to the status of the billionaire mogul. The image of the Chinese self-made man is seen as evidence that the country will have a lot to contribute in future, with plenty of rising stars China’s rich list. Our lucky ten have holdings in real estate, agriculture, the internet and car manufacturing demonstrating that China’s economy is not - as some economists suggested - relying purely on its property boom to gain momentum. For anyone curious about all this talk of China taking over the world economic stage, take a look at the business practises of these, the top ten richest people in China.
10 Liu Yongxing: $6.1 Billion
Liu Yongxing may be one of the richest men in China today, but he began his entrepreneurial life through humble means. A native of the Sichuan province, Yongxing and his brothers grew up in a poor household and their first foray into business was running a quail and chicken business together. Today, however, all three brothers rank among China’s wealthiest businessmen; Liu's brother’s company, the Hope Group, is so large they broke the firm into four divisions - North, South, East and West. Liu Yongxing is responsible for the East Hope Group, creating animal feed for China and Vietnam’s dominant agricultural sectors. With investments in aluminium and real estate as well, Yongxing knows how to get a return on his assets.
9 He Xiangjian: $6.8 Billion
He Ziangjian is a self-made billionaire, founding the home appliances company Midea Group. Not only that, but based on latest estimates, Xiangjian’s wealth has increased significantly this year - by around $2.2 billion, to be precise - as a result of restructuring of the Midea Group and selling off some tributary companies. The Midea Group also has significant real estate holdings across China. At 71, Xiangjian may, however, be considering retiring: In 2011 his son He Jianfeng became a board member of the group. The septuagenarian isn’t quite living a quiet retired life yet, though, as he still remains chairman of Midea Holdings Co., the parent company overseeing his business empire.
8 Jack Ma: $7.1 Billion
Although Jack Ma is a name now firmly associated with online technology, the internet mogul began his career as a language teacher, graduating from Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute with a degree in English. Ma moved onto much bigger things when he founded the online company Alibaba Group in 1999. The company owns a variety of e-commerce websites in China, specialising in C2C sales. After 10 years as CEO of the group, Ma stepped down in May of this year but remains executive chairman of the group with an active role in business planning and expansion. At times a controversial figure in business, Ma has been compared to Steve Jobs for his vision - and his strict, firm grip on his business. With continued speculation that the Alibaba Group will expand into online shopping in the West, the company and Mr. Ma are rich list players to watch in 2014.
7 Yang Huiyan: $7.2 Billion
At 32, Yang Huiyan is both the youngest member of our list and the only woman to make it into the top ten list in China. Huiyan made her money after her father made her the majority shareholder in his real estate company, Country Garden. A reclusive figure, Huiyan has seen her wealth decline significantly as a result of the economic crisis, but she still has plenty of reasons to look on the bright side: as well as ranking at 211 in a list of world billionaires, Huyian is also the richest woman in Asia, a title which she has held since she was 26. Although she is shy and retiring when it comes to the media - a trait the heiress shares with her father - reports suggest that she has had an eye on his empire from an early age, attending board meetings since she was a teenager. Sadly for any bachelors with a taste for billionaires, Huyian is already married.
6 Wei Jianjun: $9 Billion
Like most of the moguls featured on our top ten list, Wei Jianjun started out small but ended up in big business - and today he is the chairman of China’s largest private car manufacturers, Great Wall Motors. Jianjun began life as a factory worker before making the move into entrepreneurship and it certainly seems the venture paid off. Great Wall Motors, who specialise in SUV manufacturing, make up a large chunk of the Jianjun fortune. In fact, in the first six months of 2013 the car manufacturers saw their net profits increase 74% as a result of $4.3 billion in sales for the firm. The company’s profits have meant that Wei Jianjun’s rating on the China rich list has gone from number 16 in 2012 to 6 this year; seeing as Jianjun’s motto is “improve a little every day” we may well see him move yet further up the list in the coming year.
5 Ma Huateng: $10.2 Billion
Ma Huateng is the youngest man on our list at 42, but success came early to this internet billionaire. In 1998 Ma, nicknamed Pony, founded his company Tencent Holdings Ltd. - making him one of the early ticket holders on the train to internet millions. A graduate of software engineering, Huateng put his academic skills to good use creating Tencent, an internet service provider group who today specialise in mobile, entertainment and instant messaging services. The company’s messaging service Tencent QQ proved to be highly lucrative for the brand. The company trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange and has plans to expand further as a search engine: in September this year they shelled out over $400 million for a 38% share of the Chinese site sohu.com. Tencent Holdings is today China’s largest internet company in terms of market share so for any of your looking for a smart place to lodge your investments, perhaps the Hong Kong stock exchange is the place to look…
4 Li Hejun: $10.9 Billion
Li Hejun is a newcomer to the Chinese rich list, debuting impressively at number 4. The 46 year old billionaire’s riches have come from his 99% share in the Hanergy Holding Group, a company specialising in solar technology.Li Hejun is the only member of the Chinese rich list to work in the renewable energy sector and considering how highly he is ranked, this may be an area to look into for any future entrepreneurs. When not managing Hanergy, Hejun keeps his eye on the competition, acquiring a number of similar technology-based companies around the world. A definite one to watch for 2014.
3 Robin Li: $11.1 Billion
Robin Li is the founder and CEO of China’s largest search engine, Baidu. Educated in both China and the United States, Li specialised from an early stage in search engines for the online space making him a key player in this fundamental part of the internet experience. After completing a master in Buffalo, Li spent a number of years working in Silicon Valley before returning to his home country to found his empire. According to Bloomberg, Li has never sold a single share in Baidu, making him sole owner of the billion dollar empire. With the advent of mobile technology, the company has been busy acquiring a number of smaller firms to strengthen their mobile presence and even threaten China’s Jack Ma with their expansion into e-commerce. This year, Baidu’s purchase of the mobile app store 91 Wireless for $1.85 billion was the biggest tech transaction in Chinese history. On top of this, Forbes ranks Li as number 61 on their list of the world’s most powerful people.
2 Zong Qinghou: $11.2 Billion
Zong Quinghou is something of a wildcard on our rich list making his money through his lucrative beverage company Wahaha. Qinghou is a fierce mogul who built up his empire after the end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, beginning by selling lollipops but now rising to become China’s second richest man. Such notoriety does come at a price however, with Qinghou sustaining injuries this year after an attack by an interviewee who was turned down for a job at Wahaha. The attack caused tendon damage to his hand but in spite of his injuries, Quinhou was reportedly back in the office only days later. Despite his hard work and billions , Qinghou insists he lives a quiet life: when not working he says the only things he enjoys doing are smoking and drinking tea. Nice work if you can get it.
1 Wang Jianlin: $14.1 Billion
The leader of the pack, Wan Jianlin, was recently named by Forbes Asia as their businessman of the year and with a self-made net worth of $14.1 billion, that's hardly surprising. The billionaire is a mogul in the true sense of the word, with assets in real estate, cinema and retail. The business buzz came relatively late to the 59 year old however, who previously served in the Chinese military from the age of 18, leaving in 1986. After this Jianlin moved into the real estate business, and although he got off to a slow start, as the Chinese economy and property market started to grow, so too did his business, with the Dalian Wanda Group the biggest commercial real estate group in China. The company’s assets include around 80 shopping malls as well as 46 luxury hotels across the country. On top of this, this year Jianlin became the owner of the world’s largest cinema chain AMC, who have been struggling in the US of late. The sale, for a reported $2.6 billion, demonstrates the tycoon’s penchant for the world of showbiz; Jianlin famously flew in Leonardo di Caprio and John Travolta for a glamorous opening ceremony of Quingdao, a development poised as a Hollywood in China. Jianlin has upcoming plans for property developments in Hong Kong and London and has acquired the yacht-making company Sunseeker. All in a day’s work for the premier billionaire in China.
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