This story appears in the November 2022 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of China’s Richest 2022. See the full list here. Must Solar Inverter
Mainland China’s economic, political and pandemic woes have contributed to the biggest drop in the fortunes there since Forbes began tracking the country’s wealthiest more than two decades ago. The combined wealth of China’s 100 richest plunged 39% to $907.1 billion from $1.48 trillion in last year’s list. Of the 100 names on the list, 79 were down, 12 were returnees, four had split fortunes, three were new and only two were richer.
Wealth also fell on worries about a leftward turn in China politics after the Communist Party Congress in October, and the more than 12% fall in the value of the yuan against the U.S. dollar in the past year. Two key metrics suffered heavy losses: mainland China’s benchmark CSI 300 stock index shed over a quarter of its value since the last list appeared, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fared even worse, plunging almost 41%.
This year’s No. 1 spot is held again by Zhong Shanshan, chairman of China’s top bottled-water supplier Nongfu Spring. Among dramatic falls for many, Zhong’s fortune fared relatively well, slipping just 5% to $62.3 billion from $65.9 billion a year ago. Zhong suffered less than many due to his savvy investment into Covid-test supplier Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy, and from supplying the vital commodity of drinking water. Zhang Yiming, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Bytedance–owner of wildly popular video app TikTok–came in at number two again, worth $49.5 billion, down nearly 17% from a year ago amid a decline in valuations of social media companies around the world. Robin Zeng, chairman of the world’s largest electric vehicle battery maker CATL, was No. 3 on the list again this year with a net worth of $28.9 billion, a decline of 43% from $50.8 billion last year.
Roughly four out of five of China’s 100 richest are poorer than a year ago. The biggest dollar loser is Tencent chairman Ma Huateng (also known as Pony Ma), whose net worth cratered by $25.7 billion to $23.4 billion, due to a nearly 50% decline in Tencent’s shares over the past year. Tencent’s profits took a hit earlier this year following a drop in advertising and game revenue. Other tech billionaires’ fortunes plunged as well. Shares of Hong Kong-listed mobile phone maker Xiaomi also fell nearly 50% over the prior year, knocking the fortune of Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s founder and CEO, to $7.6 billion from $17.9 billion. E-commerce giant JD.com Chairman Richard Liu is worth $8.3 billion, down from $17.6 billion last year, following a rout in that company’s stock.
Real estate fortunes were also pummeled. Yang Huiyan, co-chair of real estate developer Country Garden, is the biggest percentage loser: her fortune plummeted by 82% to $4.91 billion, down from $27.8 billion a year ago, amid a slump in the real estate market. Five others in real estate dropped out of the ranks altogether including Hui Ka Yan, the chairman of over-leveraged firm China Evergrande Group, who was China’s richest man just five years ago.
There were some bright spots. Twelve who had fallen off in prior years returned to the ranks. That includes Wu Jianshu, whose Ningbo Tuopu Group makes auto parts for such companies as Porsche, BMW, Rivian and Lucid; its shares rose 25% in the past year.
And despite all the gloom and doom, three newcomers joined the list, including Chris Xu, the founder of online fast-fashion company Shein, whose low-cost clothing is popular with U.S. teenagers. Xu ranks No. 25 with a fortune of $10 billion following a new fundraising in the first half of the year by the privately-held company. Shein opened a new distribution hub this year in Whitestown, Indiana, which is expected to create 1,000 jobs by the end of this year. Another newcomer is Xue Min, the controlling shareholder of medical imaging equipment maker Shanghai United Imaging Healthcare, which went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in August. Xue, who reportedly holds a PhD from Chase Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, is ranked No. 64 and worth $5.25 billion. The third newcomer is Zhang Hejun, who chairs Ningbo Deye Technology, a leading manufacturer in the global solar inverter market whose Shanghai-listed shares more than doubled in value since the beginning of 2022.
Only two of last year’s list members are actually richer than they were a year ago: both of the gainers, like Zhang, owe their fortunes to renewable energy: Jin Baofang of JA Solar Technology, which makes solar wafers and modules, is worth $10.4 billion, up 16% from last year, while Trina Solar’s Gao Jifan is worth $7.3 billion, up 2%.
China’s richest hail from some three dozen cities. Shenzhen, which is home to the world’s biggest EV maker BYD, (it surpassed Tesla this year), is home to 14 list members, more than any other city, followed by Beijing, with 13, and Shanghai, with 8.
Looking ahead, concerns about a turn away from business-friendly policies following the Chinese Communist Congress at which Xi Jinping claimed his third term as communist party leader, combined with slowing economic growth, have tempered investment sentiment and clouded the outlook, not just for the nation but also for its most successful entrepreneurs. Don’t expect a quick rebound anytime soon.
Full Coverage of China’ Richest 2022:
With additional reporting by January Yen, Julie Lew, Susan Radlauer, Giacomo Tognini and Yue Wang
Deye Hybrid Inverter 6kw This list of mainland China’s richest was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, private databases and other sources. Net worth figures are based on exchange rates and stock prices on Oct. 28. Private companies are valued by using financial ratios and other comparisons with similar companies that are publicly traded. Some family fortunes were split. In order to facilitate comparisons among individuals with similar backgrounds, we include a number of entrepreneurs from mainland China whose citizenship is not People’s Republic of China but whose main source of wealth is the mainland. The editors reserve the right to amend the list in light of new information.