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China is second on Forbes list of richest

By YU WEI in New York (China Daily)

08:15, March 06, 2013

China has the second-highest number of billionaires in the world, according to Forbes magazine's annual list published on Monday.

Forbes' 2013 list of the world's richest people includes 122 billionaires from the Chinese mainland, 39 from Hong Kong and 26 from Taiwan.

Last year, 95 billionaires from the Chinese mainland made the list, down from 110 in 2011, due to depressed stock prices.

Of the 1,426 billionaires on the list, 442 are from the United States, followed by China. Russia ranks third with 110 and Germany fourth with 58.

The head of beverage giant Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co Ltd, Zong Qinghou, regained the title of the richest man on the Chinese mainland. Zong ranked 86th on the Forbes list with a net worth of $11.6 billion, up 60 places from last year. He is the only Chinese mainland billionaire whose net worth exceeds $10 billion this year, according to Forbes.

Zong, 67, was followed by property tycoon Wang Jianlin (128th), whose Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd acquired US movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings last year, and Liang Wengen (158th), founder of construction machinery maker Sany Group Co Ltd, which has been active with acquisitions in Europe and investment in the US.

Robin Li, chairman and CEO of search-engine giant Baidu Inc, was the fourth richest in the Chinese mainland, in 172nd place, followed by his Internet peer Pony Ma (173rd), chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd, the most valuable Internet company in China by market capitalization.

Zong, who is also a deputy to the 12th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, seemed unfazed by his status.

"I am a man making money from selling water, and everything about my company and myself is transparent, so I don't feel any pressure at all," Zong said at a news conference before the opening of the NPC's annual session in Beijing.

Economic growth, urbanization and consumer spending have been the main drivers of China's growing ranks of super rich.

China's gross domestic product increased 7.8 percent in 2012 to 51.9 trillion yuan ($8.2 trillion). Although slower than the 9.3 percent growth rate recorded in 2011, the last year's rate was still the highest among the world's major economies.

Ann Lee, an adjunct professor of economics and finance at New York University and author of What the US Can Learn From China, said the rapid increase in the number of Chinese billionaires might not be a good thing, especially with income inequality being a hot-button issue in the country.

"If Chinese policymakers do their job correctly, China's middle class will grow, but the number of billionaires should not grow as fast," she said.

The richest Chinese and their companies were very active in international markets last year.

Zong said on Sunday that Wahaha, which makes soft drinks and bottled water, will adopt different models for international cooperation.

"I am making milk powder with international dairy materials for other brands," Zong said.

"This is a win-win business. If I acquire a foreign company and enter a foreign market, I may be driven out of that market. Some foreign markets are not doing well ... so the local competitors will want to drive us out."

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