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Asia poised to overtake U.S. for most ultra-wealthy

Dolce & Gabbana in Shanghai, ChinaDolce & Gabbana in Shanghai, China
Pedestrians walk past a Dolce & Gabbana in Shanghai, China.Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg—Getty Images

North America has about a year left to enjoy its reign as the region with the greatest number of extremely wealthy people, according to the authors of a new wealth report. Poised for succession is the Asian-Pacific region, which, as early as next year, will be home to the world’s largest population of people with more than $30 million in investible assets, largely thanks to big growth in countries like China and Singapore.

That might not sound so remarkable, especially considering that the Asia-Pacific region today has more than 4.2 billion people and the U.S. only has 317 million, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. But historically, that hasn’t mattered. The U.S. has around four million very rich people, more than the second and third-ranked countries (Japan and Germany, respectively) combined.

The report, compiled in conjunction with RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini, shows that the richest countries are producing more high net-worth individuals, while the poorest countries are stalling.

In 2013, the U.S., Japan, Germany, and China represented the top four markets, respectively, with the largest population of people with more than $30 million. By 2016, the Asian Pacific region is forecasted to account for 18.8% of world wealth, whereas North America will account for a marginally smaller 17.9%.

That’s thanks as much to surging growth in some Asian countries as it is to the anemic recovery in the States. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department revised its GDP estimates to mark a sharp 2.9% decline in GDP in the first quarter of 2014, the largest dip since the Great Recession.

In China, the latest numbers from the World Bank indicate a 7.8% increase in GDP in 2012, down from a 9.3% increase in 2011; meanwhile, the Chinese population of high-net worth individuals has experienced “above-average growth” from 2008 to 2013.

China’s surging population of ultra-wealthy has also helped buoy other emerging markets, says Janet Engels, director of private client research at RBC Wealth Management. Now, she says, economists are watching it closely for signs of a slowdown, which could send ripples across the global economy.

“I don’t need China to grow faster than it is today,” Engels told Fortune. “I just need, from a global growth perspective, China to not slow.”