China’s super rich got $1.5 trillion richer during pandemic

Alibaba’s chairman, Jack Ma, China’s wealthiest man, saw his value grow 45 percent during the pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 21 October 2020

China’s super rich got $1.5 trillion richer during pandemic

  • E-commerce and gaming provide growth opportunities as global lockdowns see reconfiguration of world economies spur

BEIJING: China’s super wealthy have earned a record $1.5 trillion in 2020, more than the past five years combined, as e-commerce and gaming boomed during pandemic lockdowns, an annual rich list said Tuesday.

An extra 257 people also joined the billionaire club in the world’s number-two economy by August, following two years of shrinking membership, according to the closely watched Hurun Report.

The country now has a total of 878 billionaires. The US had 626 people in the top bracket at the start of the year, according to Hurun in its February global list.

The report found that there were around 2,000 individuals with a net worth of more than 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in August, giving them a combined net worth of $4 trillion.

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce titan Alibaba, once again topped the list after his wealth surged a whopping 45 percent to $58.8 billion as online shopping firms saw a surge in business owing to people being shut indoors for months during strict lockdowns to contain the coronavirus disease.

He was followed by Pony Ma ($57.4 billion), boss of gaming giant and WeChat owner Tencent who made an extra 50 percent despite concerns about his firm’s US outlook after it was threatened with bans there over national security fears.

First-time list member Zhong Shanshan, 66, best-known for his bottled water brand Nongfu, parachuted into third spot with $53.7 billion after a Hong Kong IPO in September, the report found.

“The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year,” Hurun Report chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said in a statement.

This year’s list shows China was “moving away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, toward the new economy,” he added.

Wang Xing, founder of food delivery app Meituan, quadrupled his wealth and jumped 52 places to 13th in the list with $25 billion, while Richard Liu, the founder of online shopping platform JD.com doubled his money pile to $23.5 billion.

Healthcare entrepreneurs also moved up the list on the back of the pandemic, with Jiang Rensheng, founder of vaccine-maker Zhifei, tripling his value to $19.9 billion.

China shut down major cities around the country in late January and February to contain the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, causing an vast economic contractions in the first quarter.

With infections appearing to be under control, the country is on track to become the only major economy to expand this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

On Monday data showed the economy expanded 4.9 percent in the third quarter but away from the glittering figures many ordinary workers and fresh graduates are struggling to find jobs.

The urban jobless rate inched down to 5.4 percent in September, although analysts have warned of higher unemployment than officially reported this year.


US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

Updated 26 min 21 sec ago

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

  • Four companies accused of ‘transferring sensitive technology and items’ to missile program

LONDON: The US has slapped economic sanctions on four Chinese and Russian companies that Washington claims helped to support Iran’s missile program.

The four were accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program” and will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions, imposed on Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia’s Nilco Group and joint stock company Elecon.

“These measures are part of our response to Iran’s malign activities,” said Pompeo. “These determinations underscore the continuing need for all countries to remain vigilant to efforts by Iran to advance its missile program. We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran.”

The Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, when the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was also discussed.

“I want to thank Kuwait for its support of the maximum pressure campaign. Together, we are denying Tehran money, resources, wealth, weapons with which they would be able to commit terror acts all across the region,” he said.

It is not yet clear how the incoming administration of Joe Biden will deal with Tehran and whether it wants to revive the nuclear deal which would be key reviving the country’s battered economy. The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value this year against the dollar, fueling inflation and deepening the damage to the economy.

Iran’s economy would grow as much as 4.4 percent next year if sanctions were lifted, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said last week. 

The economy is expected to contract by about 6.1 percent in 2020 according to IIF estimates.