Fewer super rich individuals in China as fortunes shrink amid raging trade war, slowing economy, Hurun list shows

Daniel Ren

The ranks of wealthy individuals in China fell for a second consecutive year, with many of the mainland’s manufacturing tycoons falling behind in the country’s digitalisation drive, economic slowdown and the US-China trade war, according to the latest Hurun list.

The cut-off to make the list is a personal net worth of at least 2 billion yuan (US$281 million). Although 266 individuals fell off this year’s list, it was not as bad as the 456 who dropped off in 2018.

“The rising penetration of new technologies have had an impact on the manufacturers that were unable to follow the pace [of digitalisation],” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report, which compiled the rich list. “Forty per cent of the people on the list two years ago failed to make the cut this year, the biggest drop since records began 21 years ago.”

China’s breakneck economic growth since the 1990s has seen thousands of entrepreneurs amass massive fortunes, with the number of billionaires also growing.

Muyuan Foodstuff’s Qin Yinglin (above) and his wife Qian Ying saw their wealth triple from last year. Photo: Weibo

However, the world’s second-largest economy has hit a blip since 2018 as the gruelling trade war with the US weighs on business owners. China’s economy expanded 6.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year, the slowest growth since record-keeping started in 1992. Moreover, analysts fear that top trade negotiators from the US and China were unlikely to reach a deal soon and ease pressure on the economy.

The owners of some bricks-and-mortar companies saw their personal net worth shrink because of dwindling exports and weaker sales at home coupled with loss of market share to e-commerce firms.

China has more property tycoons than US, Britain, Hong Kong combined

China’s benchmark stock indicators in Shanghai and Shenzhen, which have remained flat over the past year, did not help matters either.

Apart from 2018 and 2019, the only other years when the Hurun China Rich List shrank was in 2002 when the technology bubble burst, and in 2008 during the global financial crisis.

Overall, 1,819 mainland individuals, including 192 new names, made it to the list based on their wealth as of August 15.

Jack Ma, 55, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding, retained the top ranking on the list with a fortune of US$39 billion. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Zhang Yong (above) and his wife Shu Ping of Haidilao International Holding, doubled their wealth from last year. Photo: Bloomberg

He was followed by Pony Ma Huateng, co-founder of Tencent Holdings, whose personal net worth was valued at US$37 billion.

Billionaires in the food businesses chalked up handsome gains this year.

Qin Yinglin, 54, and his wife Qian Ying, 53, of Muyuan Foodstuff, saw their wealth triple to US$14 billion, following the increase in pork prices because of the outbreak of African swine fever.

Zhang Yong, 48, and his wife Shu Ping, 49, of Haidilao International Holding, the mainland’s top hotpot restaurant chain, doubled their wealth to US$17 billion.

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