10 wealthiest people in China: A country leading the way for self-made billionaires
China’s billionaire population is on the rise.
Today, the country is home to 10 percent of the world’s almost 2,400 billionaires, according to the latest report from Wealth-X. But, perhaps more notably, a massive 94 percent of them are self-made.
Growth in China’s technology, consumer retail and real estate sectors over the past five to 10 years have made it easier for entrepreneurs to build their fortune, marking a massive surge in the country’s self-made billionaire population.
Just 2 percent of China’s 249 billionaires are the product of inheritance, according to the report. Meanwhile, 4 percent have reached the 10-figure milestone through a combination of entrepreneurship and inheritance. The rest have earned it through grit and hard work.
The figure stands in stark contrast to the global average. Overall, just 55 percent of the world’s billionaires are self-made, according to the intelligence agency’s figures. Thirteen percent of the world’s billionaires have gained their wealth through inheritance, while 32 percent have built it through a combination of inheritance and entrepreneurship.
What’s more, China’s billionaires are relatively younger than the global mean, with one-third aged under 50, compared to 14 percent globally. The average billionaire in China is 53-years-old while the average billionaire globally is aged 64.
China’s billionaires include those responsible for some of the world’s biggest companies. Here’s a look at the top 10 wealthiest:
China’s top 10 billionaires
10. Yan Jiehe
Net worth: $14.1 billion
Founder, China Pacific Construction Group
Born the youngest of nine children, Yan’s earliest memory is of going hungry, he told Fortune magazine in 2014. Like his parents, he began his career as a schoolteacher, before moving into the construction industry and launching China Pacific Construction Group in 1995.
9. Zhang Zhidong
Net worth: $15 billion
Co-founder, Tencent Holdings
Also known as Tony Zhang, Zhang was born in 1971 and met fellow Tencent co-founder Pony Ma while studying at Shenzen University. The duo, alongside three other co-founders, set up the internet company in 1998.
8. Lei Jun
Net worth: $15.1 billion
Born in 1969, Lei studied computer science at Wuhan University and worked as an engineer before taking on senior positions in several technology companies. Then, in 2010, he co-founded smartphone manufacturer and software company Xiaomi.
7. Li Hejun
Net worth: $15.5 billion
Chairman, Hanergy Holding Group
A mechanical engineering graduate, Li founded Hanergy in 1991 with 50,000 Yuan (around $8,000) borrowed from his college teacher, according to the company’s website. Today, Hanergy is a world-leading renewable energy company.
6. Ding Lei
Net worth: $17.2 billion
Ding is the founder of Chinese internet technology company NetEase, which provides online content, communications and commerce services. He launched the business in 1997 after studying electronic science and technology and working for a short time as an engineer.
5. Wang Jianlin
Net worth: $18.1 billion
Chairman, Dalian Wanda Group
Born in 1954, Wang served for sixteen years in China’s People’s Liberation Army before founding Dalian Wanda Group in 1988. Today, it is China’s largest real estate development company. Wang also owns 20 percent of the Spanish football club Atletico Madrid.
4. Yang Huiyan
3. Hui Ka Yan
Net worth: $27.5 billion
Chairman, Evergrande Real Estate Group
Hui Ka Yan, also known as Xu Jiayin, was born in a rural village in Henan province in 1958. After graduating from college, he worked as a technician in a steel factory for a decade before becoming chairman of Chinese real estate developer Evergrande Group.
2. Jack Ma
Net worth: $40.2 billion
Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group
Jack Ma was born in 1964 in Hangzhou, Zheijang province. He began his career as a teacher and famously suffered dozens of job rejections before launching Alibaba Group. Today, the company is the world’s largest retailer and one of the largest technology companies globally.
1. Huateng Ma
Net worth: $41.8 billion
Chairman, Tencent Holdings
The son of a port manager, Ma studied computer science at Shenzen University before starting his career in telecommunications. Known as Pony Ma, he launched Tencent alongside four college classmates in 1998, and now serves as its chairman and CEO.
Tencent is one of the largest internet companies in the world and counts social networks, e-commerce, payment systems and games among its services.