China still has the most billionaires in the world, despite losing 160 of them amid Beijing’s crackdowns last year

March 18, 2022, 6:13 AM UTC

China’s central government tightened its oversight on many of the country’s leading industries last year, including real estate, internet tech, and education—and the nation’s billionaires have suffered for it.

According to the Hurun Global Rich List, which tracks the wealth of billionaires, China lost 160 members from its billionaire club in 2021, though many are likely still millionaires.

“China’s billionaires have been hit hard in the past year, with nine of the top 10 biggest wealth shrinkages and 160 drop-offs [from the Hurun Rich List],” Hurun founder and chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said, noting that e-commerce platforms, real estate, education, generic drugs, and vaping were the hardest-hit industries. Hurun did not immediately return a request for comment on the identities of the 160 drop-offs.

Last year, Beijing’s curb on lending to over-leveraged property developers shook the foundations of the industry and left its biggest landlords—like Evergrande—in default. A crackdown on the data practices of e-commerce giants like Alibaba and Pinduoduo decimated internet stocks, too, while Beijing essentially eradicated the private education industry by outlawing private tutoring.

Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang was the Hurun list’s biggest loser in 2021, as the executive’s wealth plummeted to $19 billion, down from $69 billion. Investors pummeled Pinduoduo’s stocks down 30% in the year after Beijing tightened its grip on Big Tech, and following scandals involving the sudden death of two workers.

Kate Wang, founder and chairwoman of vaping brand Relx maintained her place on the billionaires index even after her wealth dropped 91% last year following Beijing’s decision to put vaping under the purview of its state-run tobacco monopoly. Wang’s wealth, Hurun says, is now teetering at $1 billion.

But despite losing 160 billionaires, China ultimately gained positions on Hurun’s global ranking, adding 75 new billionaires to reach 1,133—more than any other country and 34% of the global total of 3,381.

Chinese cities also took all top three positions for most billionaire residents, after Shenzhen usurped New York as the third most-preferred home for the ultrarich.

According to Hurun, Beijing leads the pack with 144 “known” billionaires in residence; Shanghai is second with 121; and Shenzhen is third with 113, edging out New York’s 110.

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