China has leapt from relative poverty to a vibrant developing economy and an expanding middle class in just a few short decades. With China expected to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy sometime this century, when depending on how wealth is measured, signs are already beginning to appear.
To put things in perspective, China’s current GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, is close to $10 trillion while the US is close to $15 trillion. Average income per person: $6,809 and $45,775 respectively.
An interesting perspective is to look at the “movers and shakers” in each economy. According to Forbes’ annual list of billionaires, the United States leads the horse race with 442 billionaires and China is second with 122 billionaires.
As one might expect from a developing economy, nearly all billionaires come from traditional industries. The top 10 Chinese billionaires made their money as follows:
- Zong Qinghou, $11.6 billion, beverages
- Wang Jianlin, $8.6 billion, commercial real estate
- Liang Wengen, $7.3 billion, construction equipment
- Li Robin, $6.9 billion, Chinese search engine Baidu
- Ma Huateng, $6.8 billion, mobile chat community “WeChat”
- Liu Yongxing, $6 billion, industrial materials, manufacturing
- Hui Ka Yan, $5.9 billion, real estate development
- Yang Huiyan, $5.7 billion, real estate development
- Wei Jianjun, $5.3 billion, automobiles</OL>
But China is beginning to grow quickly in newer industries. The latest Chinese billionaire, Li Hejun, currently worth $1.1 billion, built his fortune in solar energy through his main holding company Hanergy Holding (HH).
Hejun has been aggressive in his acquisition of leading-edge technology. HH, for example, acquired Global Solar Energy of Arizona last year for an undisclosed amount and Solibro GmbH of Germany for $45 million just recently. With the purchase, Hejun picked up an asset with extensive experience in copper indium callium deselenide (CIGS), thin-film technology.
Hejun recently made the 2013 Forbes China Rich List. He was the only new energy leader who made the list.