The former construction worker is the richest man in China and Asia

Bottled water billionaire Zhong Shanshan makes the list for the first time with a fortune of US $ 85 billion. (Nongfu pic)

More than 200 billionaires were created in China last year as booming stock markets and an influx of new listings offset the devastation caused by the virus pandemic, according to a global tally released on Tuesday.

The exclusive Chinese billionaire club has nearly doubled in size in the past five years as the world’s second economy has continued to outpace most other economies, and its ability to avoid the worst of the coronavirus means it was one of the few to expand in 2020.

Huron’s global list of the wealthy showed that 259 people stormed into the billion dollar slice – more than the rest of the world combined – bringing China’s total to 1,058, the first country to cross the 1,000 mark.

By comparison, the second-best performer, the United States, saw the creation of 70 new billionaires, bringing its total to 696.

Led by the Chinese group Zhong Shanshan of the giant Nongfu Bottled Water Company, who entered the list for the first time with a fortune of 85 billion US dollars, making him the number one in Asia and the top ten in the world in Hurun.

Zhong, a former construction worker, made his money after an initial public offering of $ 1.1 billion in Hong Kong last year.

However, a crackdown on e-commerce giant Alibaba led businessman Jack Ma to fall into the ranking list. The one-time beloved of Chinese entrepreneurs came under pressure from regulators, who have taken over Alibaba and fintech arm Ant Group over antitrust issues.

Three individuals globally added more than $ 50 billion in one year, the survey found: Elon Musk of Tesla, Amazon Jeff Bezos, and Colin Huang of Pinduoduo, one of the fastest growing e-commerce companies in China.

The Hurun report said that China, in general, continues to lead the global wealth creation process, adding 490 new billionaires in the past five years compared to the additional 160 billionaires in the United States.

Even with the pandemic chaos, Robert Hogwerff, president of the Huron Report, said last year saw the biggest increase in wealth over the past decade due to new listings and booming stock markets.

“Asia has, for the first time perhaps hundreds of years, more than billionaires from the rest of the world combined,” he added.

The report also indicated a shift in Hong Kong, stating that entrepreneurs in the city are now “dwarfed” by their mainland counterparts – only three Hong Kong emperors make it to the top 50 in China.

Six of the world’s ten largest cities now have the highest proportion of billionaires in China, and Beijing tops the list for the sixth year in a row.

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