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Rich are dying to make it big

(China Daily)

10:04, September 05, 2011

Vast wealth does not guarantee a long or happy life, Yu Ran reports in Shanghai.

For Jiang Jie, 34, wealth did not mean happiness. He attempted suicide about six years ago after he went from being a millionaire to penniless over the course of a month.

"I never felt so depressed," Jiang said. "I seemed to lose my faith in life after a huge investment failure left me with almost no money."

Recent decades have brought wealth within the grasp of a greater proportion of the population than ever before.

According to the Hurun Wealth Report 2011, one out of every 1,400 Chinese residents, or 960,000 individuals, have assets worth at least 10 million yuan ($1.57 million), a number that has increased by 9.7 percent since 2010.

Of these, 55 percent are business owners, 20 percent property speculators, 15 percent stock advisers and 10 percent salaried executives.

China is also home to 60,000 of the "super-rich", who have 100 million yuan or more, a number that has increased by 9 percent since 2010.

That new-found wealth has undoubtedly brought many blessings. But not necessarily longevity, statistics show.

The past eight years have seen the deaths of 72 millionaires and billionaires who had a net worth of more than 100 million yuan. Nineteen died from illnesses and 53 from unnatural causes such as suicide, accident and murder, according to an analysis of media reports conducted by the Changchun-based metropolitan newspaper New Culture Daily.

That death rate was similar to the police, the job with the highest risk factor in the country. From 2008 to 2010, three out of every 10,000 police officers died on duty.

What is the cause of the high death rate among the extremely rich? Jiang's case offers at least a partial answer.

Jiang was born to a well-to-do family that ran a steel company in Anshan, Liaoning province. When he was 16, he dropped out of senior high school and took over his father's company. Four years later he had made his first million yuan.

Although many people no doubt envied him for his good fortunes, getting rich wasn't the best thing that could have happened to him. By his own admission he became arrogant and acquisitive. Against his parents' advice, he put all of his money into land that was eventually to be turned into a holiday resort, an investment he said he considered to be "very promising".

A month later, the organizer of the project declared bankruptcy.

Learning of his misstep, Jiang took a bottle of sleeping pills with the goal of killing himself. He was only saved through the intervention of his parents.

Looking back on his brush with death, Jiang said it was just what he needed to gain a new lust for life.

"Even though I'm now just an ordinary white-collar worker at a company, I'm happier and no longer feel the need to make so much money, " he said.

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