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Charge of the Internet bulls

Updated: 2014-09-29 06:56
By Meng Jing (China Daily)

"So in this respect China is following the same pattern. However, consistent with the faster pace of China's economic development compared with the rest of the world, those billionaires may have made their riches faster than their Western counterparts."

On the latest Hurun China Rich List, Ma of Alibaba, with his $25 billion fortune, became the 11th man in the list's 16 years to rank No 1. His wealth is five times what it was last year.

Apart from him, there are four new faces in the top 10 on Hurun's list: renewable energy magnate Li Hejun of Hanergy Holding Group Ltd; Yan Jiehe of China Pacific Construction Group Co Ltd; Liu Qiangdong of JD.com Inc, an e-commerce company and Alibaba's main competitor in China; and Lei Jun of Xiaomi Corp, a smartphone maker.

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Rupert Hoogewerf, the chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report, says the fast-changing list underlines how dynamic the Chinese economy is, and is a stark reminder of the growth that is being realized in emerging markets.

Ten years ago, there was only one Chinese individual with wealth of more than 10 billion yuan; today there are 176.

"What is more amazing is that the entrepreneurial spirit that has enveloped China shows no sign of abating, with eight self-made individuals born in the 1980s making the list. Any country would be proud of that."

The IT sector billionaires who have made it into the top 10 on the Hurun list this year have done so partly at the expense of real estate billionaires, who last year occupied the most places. Their representation on the list has fallen from six to two.

Chiang Jeongwen, professor of marketing with China Europe International Business School, says the country's property tycoons are byproducts of abnormal activity in the real estate industry, activity that occurs partially because of misguided actions by central and local governments.

"As the market has been suppressed and the bubble burst, these tycoons have fallen in the ranking or disappeared all together." The pecking order among China's billionaires has changed much more quickly than have the ranking among Western billionaires, he says.

Half of China's population has mobile devices, he says, and easy access to the Internet is helping all kinds of companies in this sphere to flourish provided that they have good content, products or offer great experience to users.

"So I would say the rise of the Internet billionaires is a natural result of the rapid growth of mobile devices and comprehensive, countrywide telecommunications networks."

However, even if the thriving Internet sector almost guarantees that more multimillionaire Internet entrepreneurs are on the way, that does not necessarily mean they will be able to hold on to their riches, Ren says.

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