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China’s Billionaire Class Exposed in Hurun’s 2021 Rich List; Bottled Water and New Energy Create Fortunes

Juliet Wei covers China news and U.S.-China relations and has worked as a correspondent with Senate and House Correspondent Credential at Washington DC. She holds an M.A. in Specialized Journalism from the University of Southern California.
Published: October 29, 2021
CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology co. Limited
The Contemporary Amperex Technology co. Limited(CATL)tripled “Battery King” Zeng Yuqun‘s wealth raising him to the third spot on the Hurun’s 2021 Rich list with US$47.4 billion in assets. 

The 2021 Hurun China Rich List was announced on Oct. 27 and according to the calculation of wealth, as of Jan. 15, 2021, the wealth of bottled water king, Zhong Shanshan, 67, grew by US$3.9 billion making him China’s richest man with a total of US$60.6 billion in assets.

Coming in second, TikTok founder Zhang Yiming, grew his wealth by 230 billion yuan (US$35.9 billion),  tripling his wealth in under a year, overtaking Pony Ma of Tencent and Jack Ma of Alibaba to be the second richest with a total of US$52.8 billion in assets. 

However, Zhang Yiming resigned from the CEO position in May 2021. He was replaced by co-founder Liang Rupo.

“Battery King” Zeng Yuqun, 53, of Contemporary Amperex Technology co. Limited(CATL), also tripled his wealth raising him to the third spot on the list with US$47.4 billion in assets. 

New energy amasses fortunes

New energy is the big story of the year, with eight of the 10 fastest wealth risers amassing their wealth by investing in new energy. 

Leading the pack is “battery king”  Zeng Yuqun taking the third spot on the list with US$47.4 billion in assets.  Also topping the list are electric vehicle (EV) makers Wei Jianjun & Han Xuejuan of Great Wall Motor and Wang Chuanfu of BYD, an EV maker backed by Warren Buffett. 

Solar makers Liu Hanyuan of Tongwei and related miners, including Luo Liguo of Hesheng Silicon, saw their wealth grow by up to 6.5 times to US$21.7 billion.

According to the Forbes Real-Time Rich List, Mr. Tsang Yuk Kwan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ningde Time, a Chinese electric vehicle battery manufacturer, is among the richest people in Hong Kong. 

Tsang, Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee are ranked 41st, 42nd and 49th respectively on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people.

There were some dramatic changes worth watching among a few well-knowns, such as Pony Ma of Tencent, who slide by 19 percent to rank fourth with US$49.2 billion in assets.

Jack Ma, last year’s richest person, dropped to fifth with US$22.6  billion, after Ant Group’s listing was suspended on stock exchanges and Alibaba was fined a record US$2.8  billion for monopolistic practices. Jack Ma’s fortune took a significant hit of 145 billion yuan or US$22.7 billion.

Evergrande’s Xu Jiayin, who topped the list in 2017, fell to 70th place from 5th place last year, with US$11.3 billion in assets. Xu Jiayin’s shrinkage is the most on the list, while what has yet to be counted are trillions of yuan in corporate debt which may have to be repaid with his private assets. 

Yang Huiyan, the female owner of Country Garden, took the 11th spot with US$28.7  billion in assets and Lee Shau Kee, 93, of Henderson Land,  ranked 15th with US$26.4  billion.

Wealth in the education industry plummeted. Home tutoring provider Zhang Bangxin of TAL Education was down 94 percent, falling from US$14 billion last year to US$890 million.

Riding a surge in demand, semiconductors had a strong year due to demand from auto and mobile phone manufacturers. Yu Renrong, 55, of Will saw his wealth increase 45% to US$12.4  billion.

According to the Hurun 100 list, China’s manufacturing, health, real estate, chemicals and financial investment are the top five sources of wealth for entrepreneurs on the list. 

The top three cities with the highest concentration of entrepreneurs are Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai, followed by Hangzhou, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou.