China has a new richest man, and his claim to the crown is an indication that domestic consumption is the key driver in the rising number of China's wealthy, according to the complier of the Hurun Rich List 2010 released Tuesday.
Zong Qinghou, the 65-year-old founder of China's largest maker of soft drinks, the Hangzhou Wahaha Group, is now China's richest man, with a personal fortune estimated at $12 billion, according to the list.
"Except for one among the top 10 richest Chinese on the list - who made (his) money through exporting a blood thinner to the US - the remaining richest made their fortunes from China's growing domestic market," Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of the Shanghai-based Hurun Report, told the Global Times.
Among the list's 1,363 individuals worth at least 1 billion yuan ($150 million), fewer than 5 percent have made their fortunes from export-oriented business, Hoogewerf said.
"Zong was crowned thanks to China's growing domestic demand, and his success reflects a trend," Hoogewerf added.
Li Li, a pharmaceutical tycoon who founded Hepalink, was ranked second with $6 billion, followed by Zhang Yin, the founder of paper-recycling company Nine Dragons Paper, with $5.6 billion.
Sany Heavy Industry Co's Liang Wen'gen and Baidu Inc's Robin Li ranked fourth and fifth with $5.4 billion and $5.3 billion, respectively.
"We can see from this year's Rich List that consumer products and new economic forms, such as Internet business, have became a growth engine in the private sector, and people are getting more concerned with the updating of their living standards, in addition to basic needs," Li Xunlei, chief economist of Guotai Junan Securities, told the Global Times.
Despite domestic stock markets being down 10 percent over the past year, the richest Chinese have seen their fortunes continue to grow fast. The average wealth of the Hurun 1,000 grew 64 percent over the past two years and 26 percent in the past year, according to an analysis report released on the official website of the Hurun Report.
There are 1,363 individuals with 1 billion yuan, up from 1,000 last year and just 24 a decade ago. The number of China's dollar billionaires rose by 69 to 189 this year, suggesting that China today has more billionaires than anywhere else in the world, surpassing even the US, the report said.
"Regardless of the accuracy of the annual list, the ranking has at least showed greater social transparency in China, where rich people are still reluctant to disclose their wealth, and it has helped enhance people's awareness of the flow of social wealth," according to Li, the economist.
With stocks in residential property firms down by a quarter, on average, over the last year, the number of "pure" property tycoons in the top 10 dropped from six to two, according to the Hurun analysis.
"Not only is 2010 the first time in 10 years that a property tycoon has not made the top five, but it is also the first year that a construction-equipment manufacturer has made more than any property tycoon. It is the modern equivalent of the Califor-nia gold rush, when selling shovels to the gold miners was a guarantee of success," Hoogewerf said.
Last year's No. 1, Wang Chuanfu, saw his wealth drop 10 percent, placing him 12th on the list with $4.6 billion. BYD, the company Wang founded, is expected to sell 600,000 cars this year, down from its original forecast of 800,000 units.
"The changes in the list's ranking reflect society's expectations about the performance of certain stocks and whether a company's core competitiveness can be maintained," Li said.
The list also revealed the growing political influence of China's wealthy, with 20 percent on the list, or 173 individuals, being appointed to significant government advisory posts.
According to a separate Hurun list of self-made female billionaires, also released Tuesday, more than half the world's richest women are Chinese.
The list also shows that the world's three richest women are Chinese, led by Zhang Yin who was China's richest person in 2006.
"China is the world's clear leader for women in business," Hoogewerf said. "There is no other country that comes even close to touching the number of self-made women in China."
Working mothers in China and other BRIC countries "are able to aim high, in part because they have more shoulders to lean on than their American and European peers when it comes to childcare," the Financial Times reported, citing a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York.