BEIJING: More than 200 billionaires were created in China last year as booming stock markets and a flood of new listings offset the ravages of the virus pandemic, according to a global tally released on Tuesday.

The size of China’s exclusive billionaire’s club has almost doubled in the past five years as the world’s number two economy continued to outpace most others, and its ability to mostly avoid the worst of the coronavirus meant it was one of the few to expand in 2020.

And the Hurun Global Rich List showed 259 people breaking into the billion-dollar bracket — more than the rest of the world combined — taking China total to 1,058, the first country to break the 1,000 mark.

In comparison, second best performer the United States saw 70 new billionaires created, taking its total to 696.

Leading the Chinese pack was Zhong Shanshan of bottled water giant Nongfu, who entered the list for the first time with an $85 billion fortune, putting him number one in Asia and into Hurun’s global top 10. Zhong, a former construction worker, made his cash following a $1.1 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong last year.

However, a clampdown on ecommerce giant Alibaba saw tycoon Jack Ma fall down the pecking order. The one-time darling of China’s entrepreneurs has come under pressure from regulators, who have reined in Alibaba and fintech arm Ant Group on anti-trust issues.

Three individuals globally added more than $50 billion in a single year, the survey found: Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Colin Huang of Pinduoduo, one of China’s fastest-growing ecommerce players.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2021

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