Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires across the world saw their wealth rise by 32 percent to $14.7 trillion last year, with individuals from China dominating the rankings, a new study said on Tuesday.
A total of 3,228 entrepreneurs with a personal fortune of at least $1 billion entered the list, 412 more than the number in the previous year.
And 256 entrepreneurs from China entered the billionaire's club, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2021, which is in its 10th year now. China became the first country in the world to have 1,000 plus dollar-billionaires, with the total number exceeding 1,056, surpassing the combined number of the next three countries on the list: the United States, India and Germany.
Surprisingly, the first Chinese entrepreneur who broke into the global top 10 billionaire list does not come from the internet industry. Zhong Shanshan, founder of the Hangzhou-based bottled water company Nongfu Spring, was one of the richest men in the world this year with a personal wealth of $85 billion. Nongfu Spring raised HK$8.15 billion ($1.05 billion) from an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange in September.
The 67-year-old Zhong also listed in April a vaccine business he founded in 1991. The company's market cap now exceeds $10 billion. Zhong has also overtaken Mumbai-based Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, to become the richest Asian.
Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report, said the rankings of Chinese billionaires reflect the country's economic growth and restructuring.
Pony Ma, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of technology giant Tencent, saw his fortune grow by $30 billion to $74 billion this year, making him the second-richest Chinese entrepreneur.
Huang Zheng, founder of online discounter Pinduoduo, became the third-richest Chinese with a personal wealth of $69 billion.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma took the top position in China last year but moved down to fourth position this year. It is the first time in three years that Ma has dropped out of the top three, which comes after Alibaba and its financial arm Ant Group's antitrust issues.
Internet company ByteDance's founder Zhang Yiming became the fifth-richest Chinese entrepreneur thanks to the popularity of videosharing app TikTok in China and across the world.
On the other hand, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and Evergrande Group Chairman Xu Jiayin dropped out of the top 10 rankings in China.
It was also the first time since the ranking started that there was no Chinese property giant in the top 10 list.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk became the richest person in the world this year by adding $151 billion to his personal wealth to take the total to $197 billion.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world's second-richest person with a personal wealth of $189 billion. Luxury giant LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault was ranked third with a family wealth of $114 billion.
"The first two months of the COVID-19 outbreak wiped out massive amounts of wealth, while the second two months saw a V-shaped recovery. Digitalization-led new economy leapfrogged since June," said Hoogewerf.
The sound performance of the global stock markets last year, which was best represented by the 40 percent increase seen in Nasdaq and Shenzhen indexes, helped boost the wealth of the super rich, he said.