China Billionaires Exceed 300, Setting New Record

September 11, 2013 Updated: September 12, 2013

The number of Chinese worth over $1 billion has hit a new high of 315, compared with none in 2003, according to the latest Hurun Report or China’s rich list. Many of them have political ties.

Published on Wednesday, this year’s wealth survey for the world’s second largest economy ranked property magnate Wang Jianlin as No. 1, after doubling his fortune to $22 billion.

The billionaire total increased by 64, or 25 percent from last year, and the top 1,000 rich people had an average wealth of $1.04 billion, which is over twice that of 2008–during the global financial crisis–when the average was $440 million.

Rupert Hoogewarf, chairman and chief researcher of the report, said in a statement that, “Strong performances in real estate and information technology have driven China’s richest to new records.”

The link between business and politics was clear with 153 people on the ultra-rich list appointed to the National People’s Congress or to the China’s People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Some supremely wealthy Chinese have been caught up in corruption scandals. Two of those listed are in prison, and one was a witness at Bo Xilai’s trial last month. Xu Ming, ranked at No. 676 with $490 million, said he gave 21 million yuan ($3.4 million) in bribes to the ousted politician, including buying a luxury French villa for Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife.

Real estate tycoon Wu Yajun dropped from No. 8 to No. 22 after divorcing her husband, and paying out $4.6 billion, almost a quarter of her wealth, sending him into the top 50 most wealthy in what the report described as “the most expensive divorce settlement from a wife to her husband.”

Chinese netizens commented about the news on Weibo, with some mentioning the enormous wealth disparity in China.

One said: “According to the Hurun Report, China has 2.7 million millionaires and 315 billionaires. However, according to the United Nations, there 13 percent of Chinese people still live on less than $1.25 a day.”

Another remarked: ”According to the Hurun Report, the total assets of China’s top 357 richest are up to $570 billion, equal to 45 times the GDP of North Korea. The GDP of a nation comprising those richest people would rank No. 16 in the world!”

Research by Lisa Huang.