Mar 20, 2022 - Economy

China is making new billionaires much faster than the U.S.

Illustration of a champagne flute with a gold star floating.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

China has been producing new billionaires — especially female billionaires — much faster than any other country in the world. 

Yes, but: The U.S., second by a large margin, produces billionaires and companies with much bigger global influence.

By the numbers: China and the U.S. together have produced 55% of the world’s "known" billionaires, according to Hurun’s 2022 Global Rich List. 

  • China has more total billionaires: 1,133 to the U.S.' 716. And its billionaire population is growing about three times faster than America's, according to Hurun.
  • The three cities with the biggest billionaire populations are now all in China: Shenzhen just overtook New York City for third place.
  • But America's billionaires are still wealthier than China's. They control about 32% of the combined wealth of all the "known billionaires" in the world, while China's billionaires account for about 27% of that wealth.

"True economic firepower" is better measured by the value of companies than wealthy individuals, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report. And there, the U.S. has a huge edge.

  • The total market cap of the four biggest U.S. companies — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet (Google's parent company) — are equivalent to the top 500 most valuable non-state controlled companies in China, he said.

What they're saying: “[The vast majority] of the wealth on the global rich list to do with China is coming from Chinese consumer [dollars],” Hoogewerf told Axios.

  • Real estate, industrial products and health care have been behind most of the big money in China.
  • Wealth from the top billionaires living in the U.S. come mainly from global tech providers, as well as financial services and entertainment.

Worthy of note: Of the most successful self-made female billionaires in the world, 60-70% are Chinese — a rate that's stayed consistent for the last 16 years.

  • A few of the causes: The previous one-child rule meant women have had to take fewer career breaks. And the societal structure where families live together or close to one another has given women more child care options.
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