The number of super-rich people in China continues to multiply at a dizzying pace.
According to the latest Hurun Report magazine’s ‘Hurun Rich List,’ construction magnate and former weapons plant manager Liang Wengen is now the wealthiest man in China with a fortune estimated at about $11-billion.
The 55-year old Liang, 55, chairman of construction firm Sany, has more peers than ever before.
China now has 271 U.S.-dollar billionaires, up from 189 in 2010.
Over the past two years, the number of billionaires in China has doubled (from 130 in 2009). Part of the reason for the rapid rise of Chinese super-wealthy is probably the spike in public stock offerings.
China is now second only to the United States which boasts about 400 billionaires.
China's rich have defied the global financial crisis with another record year of growth, Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of the Hurun Report, said in a statement.
China’s second richest person is Zong Qinghou, chief of the Wahaha beverage empire, with a fortune of about $10.7-billion.
Next on the list are Robin Li Yanhong, chairman of search engine Baidu ($8.8-billion), followed by Yan Bin, whose company Ruoy Chai International Group, has the exclusive distribution rights for Red Bull energy drinks ($7.8-billion).
The numbers are growing much faster than people expected, Hoogewerf told the Daily Telegraph newspaper of the UK.
Hoogewerf added that the true number of Chinese billionaires is probably much higher, given the likelihood of tycoons who want to hide or under-report the value of their assets.
In the past few weeks, I have also been speaking to a number of people who have cashed out of their first empires and are busy building their second, he said.
Many billionaires are also much more comfortable in their skins. The shareholder structures of their companies are becoming clearer and clearer and many of them are also co-opted into the political system.
According to Agence France Presse, 29 of the top 50 wealthiest in China are focused on the booming property sector.
Indeed, the fifth and sixth richest Chinese are Xu Jiayin, chief executive officer of Evergrande Real Estate Group; and Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda, a commercial property developer.
There seems to be a relentless construction boom going on in China. Just about every tycoon is involved in the property market, Hoogewerf told Agence France Presse.
The seventh richest Chinese person is also the wealthiest woman in the country -- Wu Yajun of Longfor, another property company.
Huang Weiping, an economist at Renmin University in Beijing, told the Telegraph: This phenomenon is occurring all over the world. And as China becomes more advanced, and improves its industries, it is only natural that a large share of the wealth will end up with the people at the top of the value chain.
Huang added that wealthy people in China always come under suspicion.
If they are government officials, people accuse them of corruption,” he said.
“If they are businessmen, people accuse them of tax evasion. But there is little concrete proof that rich Chinese accumulate their wealth in a manner different from rich people elsewhere.