A 37-year-old home appliance retailer has topped a young field of millionaires in the latest China rich list released by US financial magazine 'Forbes' Thursday.
Wong Kwong Yu, the founder of Gome Appliances who has amassed a net worth of 18.1 billion yuan (US$2.3 billion), is the richest person on the Chinese mainland.
Last year's number one, Larry Rong Zhijian, 63, of Hong Kong-listed Citic Pacific, dropped two places to third with a net worth of US$2 billion, according to the list of the 400 richest people in China.
Wong's fortune has almost doubled in the past year as Chinese consumers snapped up household goods at his Gome chain of stores. The timely sale of stock increased his cash reserves.
The magazine observed that more than a quarter of the top 40 were under 40 and the average age in China was much younger than in the US. "It reflects a fact that China's economic development has a short history up to now," said Russell Flannery, Forbes' Shanghai bureau chief and the list compiler.
The combined net worth of the top 40 rose by 46 percent in 2006 to a record US$38 billion from $26 billion in 2005. The threshold for listing increased from 500 million yuan (US$62 million) in 2005 to 800 million yuan this year.
Flannery said the international stock listings by China's private sector were the major reason for the jump in wealth. "All of the top five have listed their companies in Hong Kong and 65 of the top 100 have major stakes in international stock markets. The previous figures were 60 in 2005, 43 in 2003 and 20 in 2002."
Zhang Yin, the 49-year-old co-founder and chairman of Guangdong-based Nine Dragons Paper Industries Co. Ltd., ranked fifth on the list, making her the richest woman. But she was listed atop another Chinese rich list published last month by Englishman Rupert Hoogewerf.
Forbes noted that China's wealth was highly concentrated. Among the 400, half are from China's most developed regions: 66 from Guangdong Province, followed by Zhejiang with 47, Shanghai 46 and Beijing 42.
(Xinhua News Agency November 3, 2006)