China's wealthiest are being counted. The 2009 China Rich List, published by the Hurun Report, is the yearly digest of the mainland's biggest earners and biggest spenders. This year's statistics show significant growth in the number of the country's high income individuals despite the financial crisis. Here's a brief comparison: In 2008 there were 800,000 people with wealth over 10 million RMB (1.46 million USD) versus 825,000 this year. This year there are a total of 51,000 individuals with over 100 million RMB up 1,000 people from last year. One person in 25,000 has 100,000 million RMB. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong are the cities with the most multimillionaires; however, second and third tier cities also have a growing number of rich residents.
Those on the wealthy list must have assets totaling at least 10 million RMB and primarily fall into 4 categories: business people, high-salaried professionals, real-estate speculators, and professional share investors. Surprisingly, the majority of these people are below 50. Individuals on the Hurun list obviously work hard, many are entrepreneurs, but they also play hard. They tend to vacation longer than other Chinese people and their most preferred international travel destination is the United States.
Ruper Hoogewerf (aka Hu Run), who publishes the monthly magazine along with other lists such as China Philanthropy List and Corporate Social Responsibility Top Fifty List, gave a profile of the habits and lifestyle of the wealthy Chinese at the top of his list as reported by China Daily. Here are a few highlights:
- A man in his 40s who lives with his wife in Shanghai and has a child studying abroad
- Owns at least one home in Beijing
- Enjoys golf and might charter a plane to Hainan for a golfing expedition with friends
- Spends money on luxury brand items such as Louis Vuitton
- Increased involvement in charities compared to last year
While the above characteristics classify as the actions of a wealthy Chinese man, it does necessarily qualify him an aristocrat. The Hurun report defines an aristocrat as those that spend 87 million RMB on property, cars, and luxury goods. They are willing to spend thousands on art as well as piano lessons. Not all who could achieve aristocratic status choose to, however. Some choose for less expensive lifestyles.
For Chinese business persons, getting onto a rich list is by no means coveted. An article in The Economist explains that there is a stigma known as "the curse of Forbes," wherein those on the list end up embroiled in scandal, investigated by the government, occasionally go missing, and other unpleasantries corresponding to their rise to the top. Hoogewerf doesn't think this will rub off onto his list. Of the 1,300 people featured on the Hurun Rich List, less than 2% have been defamed. (Of those that have, the article reports, "two await trial, ten are currently under investigation, seven have been investigated but not convicted, seven have fled China, and six have died (including two suicides and one murder). Eighteen have ended up in jail…") Many Chinese are dubious of the wealthy and assume that some "original sin" must account for their success although Hoogewerf thinks that it's the sins of the past are casting inaccurate glares on the present.
Whether or not they are big spenders, have something to hide or simply like to lay low, it does seem that more of the upper crust are putting their funds to work for good. According to Hoogewerf almost one-tenth of donations for the Sichuan Earthquake received by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in the first week came from the 100 wealthiest people in the country. While it might not end up in as many headlines, this is a trend we would love to see continue as the number of multimillionaires grow in China. Maybe it will even be added to the checklist of musts for aristocrat status.
For more on the Hurun Report:
http://news.sohu.com/20090415/n263404087.shtml (Chinese only)