To Get Rich Is Glorious. But Not Harmonious.

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Deng Xiao Ping famously said that “to get rich is glorious”…and many took it to heart. Some even made it happen. Indeed, China’s super-rich just got even richer according to Business Day:

    “The combined wealth of China’s 40 richest people jumped 46% from a year earlier to $38bn.”

So, who are these people? The top 20 are listed by Forbes as follows:

    Rank Name Net Worth ($mil) Age Company

    1 Wong Kwong Yu 2,300 37 Gome Appliances
    2 Xu Rongmao 2,100 56 Shimao Group
    3 Larry Rong Zhijian 2,000 64 CITIC Pacific Group
    4 Zhu Mengyi 1,900 47 Hopson Development
    5 Yan Cheung 1,500 49 Nine Dragons
    6 Zhang Li 1,450 52 R & F Properties Group
    7 Shi Zhengrong 1,430 43 Suntech Power
    8 Liu Yongxing 1,160 58 East Hope Group
    9 Guo Guangchang 1,150 39 Fosun High-Tech Group
    10 Lu Guanqiu 1,140 61 Wanxiang Group
    11 Liu Yonghao 1,120 55 New Hope Group
    12 William Ding Lei 1,100 35 NetEase.com
    13 Chu Lam Yiu 1,090 37 Huabao International
    14 Zhong Sheng Jian 1,080 48 Yanlord Land Group
    15 Xu Ming 1,000 35 Shide Group
    16 Chen Lihua 950 65 Fu Wah International HK Group
    17 Zhang Cheng Fei 890 38 Nine Dragons
    18 Liu Zhongtian 850 42 Liaoning Zhongwang Group
    19 Zhang Jindong 838 43 Suning Appliances
    20 Chen Zhuolin 814 45 Agile Holdings
    & Lu Qianfang

The list is interesting in that much of the wealth has derived from listing companies (and not a few connections) rather than inheriting money, the people are relatively young (12 are under 40 years old), and the list – like China’s economy – is fast-moving (21 new entrants were recorded this year).

Many Chinese may aspire to join the ranks of millionaires (or at least the wealthy) – and I recall a comment that former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten once made about Hong Kong people. He said something along the lines that, when passing a Rolls Royce in the street, someone from Hong Kong would be inspired to work hard and own one – while in the UK people would be more likely to take out their keys and scratch it!

However it is not all plain sailing for the rich in China, at least when they are under the spotlight. The growing “wealth gap” has become a hot political potato, and the government’s desire to create a “harmonious society” is an important part of the strategy to maintain social stability. The IHT reports that several Forbes-listed millionaires have been arrested when it was found their wealth was based on things other than hard work:

    • Zhang Rongkun, a real estate and highway developer, 16th on Forbes in 2005, was arrested in relation to the recent Shanghai fund scandal.

    • Zhou Zhengyi, (Chau Ching-ngai), a real estate magnate who once made 11th on the Forbes list, was jailed for 3 years in 2003 for fraud and securities offenses.

    • Wong Kwong-yu (see above), at the top of the current list, has reportedly been under investigation for illegal loans.

A recent BusinessWeek article (h/t China Challenges ) expands on the wealth gap issue:

    “The World Bank claims that between 2001 and 2003, the incomes of China’s richest 10% grew by over 16% while the poorest 10% took pay cuts of 2.4%.

    With social tensions – driven by those who feel they have been left behind by China’s growth surge – lurking in the background, reform has taken an immense political significance. President Hu Jintao has put the creation of a harmonious, xiaokang (“well-off”) society high on his agenda heading into 2007.”

Be prepared for more policy initiatives.

See news sources:

3 Responses to “To Get Rich Is Glorious. But Not Harmonious.”

  1. Archive » Social Responsibility. Required.| China Business Blog Says:

    […] themes/pod88/images/menu_5_on.gif’,1)”> « To get Rich is Glorious. But Not Harmonious. January 30, 2007 Social Res […]

  2. Archive » The China Power List| China Business Blog Says:

    […] and, of course, in the world beyond.” The China Power List follows on from rich lists (here and here), company lists , philanthropy lists, and others (to which I would add China Vita […]

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    […] Market The Harmonious Society is a worthy aim indeed, but it is (or was) also glorious to be rich. We already know something about what the merely wealthy like to buy, but F […]

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