China’s super-wealthy have earned a record $1.5trillion during the last year despite the global economic collapse caused by the pandemic that began in Wuhan.
One analyst said that ‘the world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year’ after China added 257 members to its billionaires’ club and online shopping firms saw a surge in business because of virus-related lockdowns.
China’s wealthiest man, Jack Ma, saw his wealth rise by 45 per cent to $58.8billion after his e-commerce business Alibaba emerged as one of the winners of the crisis.
Healthcare entrepreneurs also moved up the list on the back of the pandemic, with Jiang Rensheng, founder of vaccine-maker Zhifei, tripling his value to $19.9billion.
China’s economic resurgence – with 4.9 per cent GDP growth announced in the latest figures on Monday – comes amid a slump in other wealthy nations which has allowed Chinese firms to seize market share.
It also comes after widespread accusations that Beijing covered up the outbreak in its early stages, denying Western countries the chance to prepare.
China has reacted angrily to calls for an international investigation and there have also been persistent doubts about the accuracy of the figures it releases.
Jack Ma, the wealthiest man in China and owner of e-commerce titan Alibaba, saw his wealth surge 45 per cent to $58.8 billion as online retailers profited from Covid-19
These figures show the year-on-year change in GDP for some of the world’s richest countries, with China’s economy larger than it was a year ago while others have seen massive decline
Numerous reports have detailed how China withheld key details about the virus in its early stages, including from the WHO which has praised China in public.
A young doctor, Li Wenliang, was reprimanded by police after trying to raise the alarm about the disease – and later died of it.
The US government has openly blamed China for leaving Western countries exposed to the disease by denying them time and knowledge to prepare for the crisis.
The Five Eyes intelligence alliance of English-speaking countries found in a 15-page dossier that China had deliberately suppressed or destroyed evidence of the outbreak in an ‘assault on international transparency’.
China shut down major cities around the country in late January and February to contain the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, causing an unprecedented economic contraction in the first quarter.
With infections appearing to be under control, the country is on track to become the only major economy to expand this year, according to the IMF.
Chinese manufacturers have benefited from strong global demand for masks and medical supplies, with total exports rising 9.9 per cent in September from a year earlier while factory activity also picked up.
The surge in wealth was revealed in the annual Hurun Report rich list which said that an e-commerce and gaming boom during lockdown had contributed to the rise.
The world’s number-two economy now has a total of 878 billionaires, a rise of 257 since last year after two years of shrinking membership.
The US had 626 people in the top bracket at the start of the year, according to Hurun in its February global list.
The report said there were around 2,000 people with a net worth of more than two billion yuan ($300 million) in August, giving them a combined net worth of $4trillion.
Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce titan Alibaba, topped the list after his wealth surged 45 per cent to $58.8 billion as online retailers profited from Covid-19.
He was followed by Pony Ma ($57.4billion), boss of gaming giant and WeChat owner Tencent who made an extra 50 per cent despite concerns about his firm’s US outlook after it was threatened with bans there over national security fears.
Chinese exporters have benefited from a surge in global demand for masks and medical supplies during the pandemic (pictured, containers at a Shanghai port on Monday)
First-time list member Zhong Shanshan, 66, best-known for his bottled water brand Nongfu, parachuted into third spot with $53.7billion.
‘The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year,’ Hurun Report chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said in a statement.
This year’s list shows China was ‘moving away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, towards the new economy’, he added.
Chinese app DingTalk almost doubled its monthly active users to 177 million after the pandemic forced people to work from home.
Wang Xing, founder of food delivery app Meituan, quadrupled his wealth and jumped 52 places to 13th in the list with $25billion.
Richard Liu, the founder of online shopping platform JD.com, doubled his money pile to $23.5billion.
Healthcare entrepreneurs also moved up the list on the back of the pandemic, with Jiang Rensheng, founder of vaccine-maker Zhifei, tripling his value to $19.9 billion.
China, the world’s biggest maker of surgical masks, had its medical factories back online as early as March just as most of the West was heading into lockdown.
As early as April 5, China revealed it had sold nearly four billion masks to foreign countries as Beijing ramped up production in response to growing demand.
On Monday data showed the economy expanded 4.9 percent in the third quarter, although behind the glittering figures many ordinary workers and fresh graduates are struggling to find jobs.
The urban jobless rate inched down to 5.4 per cent in September, although analysts have warned of higher unemployment than officially reported this year.
Official figures show China has recorded 80,729 Covid-19 cases and 4,634 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Last month WHO executive Mike Ryan offered his ‘deepest congratulations’ to China’s people and health workers for bringing the crisis under control.
A recent article in medical journal The Lancet said China’s strict lockdown and effective contact tracing were partly responsible for the country’s success.
The memory of the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s and a relatively small number of people living in care homes were also given as explanations.