Talk about a wealth gap. China’s economy is slowing, and its people remain largely poor, with per capita GDP of $8,500. Yet the Forbes China Rich List reveals the country’s 100 wealthiest people have a combined personal wealth of $220 billion. That is more than Ireland’s economic output, in 2011 ($218 billion) and more than nine times that of Cyprus ($24 billion).
As a group, China’s top tycoons have also been fairly insulated from the downturn, with their combined wealth falling a modest 7% in the past 12 months. Zong Qinghou, chairman of a major soft drinks producer named Hangzhou Wahaha Group, tops the Forbes list with personal wealth of $10 billion. So he is worth more than Laos (economic output of $7.9 billion last year) and Chad ($9.3 billion) and about the same as Armenia ($10.1 billion).
China’s billionaires are still left in the shade by the world’s richest people, however. Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Spain’s Amancio Ortega remain far wealthier than Zong.