By Wang Cong, Global Times
Opportunities abound despite downward pressure: analysts
A new Forbes China Rich List released on Thursday reflected some tough challenges the Chinese economy has faced in the past year, from downward pressure at home to rising trade protectionism overseas, but it also offered new evidence for an increasingly mature economy with great vitality, experts said.
The 2018 Forbes China Rich List showed that some of China’s richest entrepreneurs had their wealth shrink substantially over the past year, but the list also included new faces that represent the steady rise of China’s new economy and the accelerating pace of China’s manufacturing upgrades, the experts noted.
More than 75 percent of the 400 richest Chinese people on last year’s list saw their fortunes shrink, with 93 of them dropping out of the ranks this year, according to a summary of the list released by Forbes China.
Of those who reappeared on this year’s list, 229 saw their fortunes drop and nearly one third saw a decline of 20 percent or more, according to the summary, which attributed the shrinking fortunes to credit and trade worries, declining stocks and a weakening yuan.
Cao Heping, professor of economics at Peking University, noted that the depreciation of the yuan against the US dollar might have been the chief reason that fortunes were valued lower this year and that the ranking could not provide a “comprehensive” picture of the Chinese economy.
“It’s mostly the yuan’s depreciation against the dollar that causes these people’s assets to be valued much lower,” Cao told the Global Times on Thursday. “This does not have much to do with the overall economic growth.”
The yuan has weakened about 6.7 percent against the greenback since October 25, 2017, while China’s economic growth slowed to 6.5 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2018.
“The Forbes ranking does provide some insight into the trends in the Chinese economy, but it is inaccurate that the ranking shows China’s economy is in serious trouble,” said Li Daxiao, chief economist at Shenzhen-based Yingda Securities. “If anything, the ranking shows a more mature economy with robust vitality.”
Li told the Global Times on Thursday that the rise of new entrepreneurs from the internet and tech sectors points to the rise of the new economy, which China has been seeking to boost.
The 2018 Forbes China Rich List was dominated by internet and tech executives. Of the top 20, seven spots were held by internet billionaires, including the top two spots.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma Yun was ranked the richest Chinese man with a net worth of $34.6 billion, and Tencent Holdings’ Pony Ma Huateng came in second with $32.8 billion. Real estate tycoons, who had dominated the list for years, only accounted for 3 spots, led by Evergrande Group Chairman Xu Jiayin, who came in third with a net worth of $30.8 billion.
“This is a display of the transition of the Chinese economy to a more high-tech focused one,” Li said, adding that “there are still so many opportunities in the high-tech and internet sectors that we expect there will be a whole lot more internet and tech billionaires.”
This year’s list also saw 12 new tech executives, including Huang Zheng, founder of online shopping site Pinduoduo, who ranked in 12th place with a net worth of $11.25 billion. Some saw their wealth expand significantly, including CEO of smartphone-maker Xiaomi Lei Jun, whose net worth rose to $11.9 billion from $6.8 billion a year ago.
“These are bright spots in the Chinese economy that signal the economy is heading in the right direction, despite an increasingly challenging and complex foreign environment,” Cao said. “If we can learn anything from this ranking, it is that online consumption in China is still very robust.”