China has, in the last twenty years, become home to millions of mobile phone and Internet users. Businesses and the general population have become huge digital consumers and the telecommunications industry has surged - so much so that China is currently renowned for being one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world.
Many of the billionaires on this list are internet pioneers and magnates of the technology industries which have stimulated the country’s economy greatly. Companies such as Alibaba Group, Baidu and Tencent in particular have made big names for themselves both nationwide and worldwide.
However, other sectors are flourishing in China in too: It is currently the biggest automobile market in the world, and because pollution has become a serious problem, new industries such as renewable energy companies have started to appear. Manufacturing groups and real estate have also made the fortunes of some of the richest people among China's over 1.3 billion citizens. The following are those ten elite billionaires as of 2014, according to data collected by Bloomberg and Forbes.
10 Liu Yonghao - $7.1 billion
Liu Yonghao and his three brothers started out as chicken farmers with little to their names. However, the brothers eventually rose to success: their family became famous nationwide for building up a feed business just as China's economic reforms were getting off the ground in the 1980s and 1990s.
After the brothers split amicably in the mid-1990s, Liu Yonghao went on to become the chairman of New Hope Group, one of China's largest agribusiness companies. At the age of 63, Yonghao is ready to retire soon; his daughter replaced him as chairman of New Hope Liuhe last year, although he remains company director.
9 Richard Liu - $7.4 billion
Having opened a seafood restaurant while studying at university, entrepreneurship is in Richard Liu's nature. 40-year-old Liu is both the founder and chairman of JD.com. The company, based in Beijing, is the second-largest e-commerce business by volume in China. Liu controls 20% of JD.com, which recently expanded and confirmed its fortune, selling shares on the NASDAQ in May 2014. The site's user base is huge, counting more than 47 million active customers, 86 warehouses in 36 cities, and 4,000 delivery workers.
8 Lei Jun - $8.8 billion
Lei Jun leads the smartphone-making company Xiaomi Tech which has known great success over the past years. Aged 44, Jun is a self-made man. He has often been referred to as the 'Steve Jobs' of China as he has made several world-changing companies and revolutionised the technological industry.
Jun chairs Chinese social site YY whose shares have risen more than three-fold over the past year. He also heads a Hong Kong-listed online gaming company called Kingsoft.
7 Wang Wenyin - $10.5 billion
46 year old self-made billionaire Wang Wenyin is the chairman of Amer International Group. The group supplies cable and copper products and has numerous mining interests. With six industrial parks, four headquarters in China and two overseas hubs in Singapore and Geneva, Amer International Group is a huge business that has made its chairman the seventh richest man in China.
6 Zong Qinghou - $11.6 billion
Founder and chairman of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group, Zong Qinghou is at the head of the 3rd largest soft drink maker and manufacturer of consumer goods (food and baby formula) in China - he founded Wahaha ('laughing child' in Mandarin) back in 1987. He doesn’t live an extravagant lifestyle for such a rich man and is a delegate to the Chinese National People's Congress Party.
5 Li Hejun - $12.9 billion
Li Hejun is the chairman of Hanergy Holding Group. Established in 1994, Hanergy Holding Group Ltd. is a multinational clean energy company that has become one of the largest producers of thin-film solar panels and equipment in the world after having made a series of judicious acquisitions over the past year and a half. Hejun also owns one of the biggest privately held hydro-power plants in the world, located in western China.
4 Wang Jianlin - $14.1 billion
Wang Jianlin is the founder and current chairman of Dalian Wanda. Dalian Wanda is a Chinese conglomerate that holds shares in hotels, entertainment, tourism, commercial property development and a department store chain. It is also the biggest cinema operator in the world after having bought AMC Entertainment back in 2012 for $2.6 billion. Jianlin is a big screen enthusiast and plans to build the biggest cinema studio city in Qingdao by investing $8 billion. He also takes an interest in his country’s cultural heritage however, and he donated $159 million for the restoration of a historic Buddhist temple in Nanjing.
3 Ma Huateng "Pony" - $14.3 billion
Tencent Holdings chairman Ma Huateng is the 3rd richest man in China. Tencent Holdings is based in Shenzhen and is the largest Internet company in China according to market value. It offers internet, mobile and telecommunications services and has a project to introduce a wireless payment system so as to capitalise on the commercial app market. The business’s QQ and WeChat instant message platforms have a combined base of over 1 billion users.
2 Robin Li - $15.4 billion
Robin Li founded China’s primary internet search engine, Baidu. It is the 5th most visited website in the world and attracts over 100 million users every day. Profits have surged thanks to the almost 600,000 customers that use the website to sell goods and services. China's second richest man, Li has provided $10 million to his hometown of Yangquan so as to bring free Wi-Fi to all of its inhabitants.
1 Jack Ma - $25.5 billion
Entrepreneur Jack Ma founded Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest grouping of e-commerce websites of which he is the current Executive Chairman. Ma has been working on Alibaba since 1999, and is reaping the benefits today: after raising $25 billion from its U.S. IPO, Alibaba has become one of the most valuable tech companies worldwide.
The China-based company operates Taobao, the country’s biggest shopping site and Tmall, which is a platform for brands and retailers. 231 million active buyers use the site which processes over 11.3 billion orders a year across more than 190 countries. Ma is currently the 24th richest person in the world.