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.


Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

Updated 30 November 2020

Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

  • A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos

LONDON: Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an “outstanding major bone of contention,” according to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “work continues, even on a Sunday,” as he arrived for the second day of talks.

Barnier had arrived in London on Friday following a spell in self-isolation after a member of his team contracted coronavirus and ahead of the resumption of talks with British counterpart David Frost on Saturday.

Both men warned that a deal could not be reached without major concessions from the other party.

There are only five weeks to go until the end of the current transition period, during which trade relations have remained largely unchanged.

The two key sticking points remain post-Brexit access to British fishing waters for European vessels and the EU’s demand for trade penalties if either side diverges from common standards or state aid regulations rules.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that this could be the final week of “substantive” talks, with time running out to agree and ratify a deal.

“There’s a deal to be done,” he said.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: As we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he added.

Barnier told envoys last week that London was asking that European access to UK waters be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent, according to a Brussels source.

A British official called the demands “risible,” according to the domestic Press Association, adding that the “EU side knows full well that we would never accept this.”

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalize the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation,” said the source.

However, Raab was cautiously optimistic over the “level playing field” issue, saying “it feels like there is progress toward greater respect” for Britain’s position.

A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods traveling to and from the continent.

As it stands, Britain will leave Europe’s trade and customs area on Dec. 31, with no prospect of an extension.

A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement.

The talks have already dragged on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.