China’s rich got richer in 2019 despite tariff war

BEIJING (AP) — China’s richest businesspeople got richer in 2019 despite a tariff war with Washington and an economic slowdown, a survey showed yesterday.

The average net worth of China’s richest 1,800 people rose 10per cent over 2018 to USD1.4 billion, according to the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy.

Jack Ma, who retired last month as chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, was number one for a second year with a net worth of USD39 billion. Ma Huateng of Tencent, a games and social media company, was second at USD37 billion, up eight per cent.

The results reflect the importance of China’s consumer market at a time when United States (US) tariff hikes have battered export- oriented manufacturing.

The number of businesspeople on the list from the tech, pharma and food industries rose while those from manufacturing declined.

Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma speaks during a seminar in Bali, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP

“Wealth is concentrating into the hands of those who are able to adapt to the digital economy,” said report’s Founder and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf in a statement.

In contrast to the US and Europe, where the ranks of the richest people are dominated by inherited wealth, almost everyone on the Chinese list is self-made. Hoogewerf noted that when the survey began two decades ago, mainland China had no dollar billionaires.

Real estate developer Xu Jiayin, number one in 2017, dropped to third place with USD30 billion.

Sun Piaoyang and Zhong Huijuan, a married couple, were number five at USD25 billion after their drug company, Hansoh, debuted on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Pharma tycoons account for eight per cent of this year’s list, double the share 10 years ago, according to Hurun.

The net worth of Founder of smartphone maker Huawei Technologies Ltd Ren Zhengfei which is at the centre of a struggle between Washington and Beijing over technology development, rose 24 per cent to USD3 billion. He climbed 36 places on the Hurun list to number 162.

Huawei, which also makes network switching gear, said sales rose 23.2 per cent over a year earlier in the first half of 2019.

The company has warned, however, that it will “face difficulties” as curbs on its access to US components and technology take effect.

Consumer industries benefitted from 8.4 per cent rise in retail spending in the first half of 2019. That was despite a decline in economic growth to a 26-year low of 6.2 per cent.

The list included 156 people under age 40, an increase of 24 names from last year.