The country now has more than America and India combined
China — a Communist state — has more billionaires than America, land of the free. The latest figures come from the Hurun Global Rich List — which is a ranking of the world’s dollar billionaires.
According to the 2022 list there are 1,133 billionaires in the People’s Republic compared to 716 in the US. India was in third place with 215 billionaires and the UK fourth with 150.
Though China first overtook America back in 2016, the margin has now grown to embarrassing proportions. On current trends it can only grow further. The number of new Chinese billionaires created over the last year (235) is nearly quadruple the number of new American billionaires (63).
A ranking of global cities by number of resident billionaires puts the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen in first, second and third place respectively. New York comes in fourth and London fifth.
So, is this further evidence that the Chinese version of capitalism is outstripping the western original? A few points to consider: firstly, we should never forget that more than half of humanity lives in the three regions of East Asia, South Asia and South-East Asia. This is the most under-appreciated important fact about the world today. As China, India and their neighbours catch-up with the West, we should expect — and, indeed, hope — that Asia becomes the focal point of the global economy. After all, the only way in which this doesn’t happen is if the majority of the world’s people stay poor.
Secondly, the number of rich individuals is only one measure of super-wealth. While China has more billionaires, the combined wealth of their American counterparts remains greater. There are no trillionaires anywhere in the world yet, but America dominates the list of people with more than $100 billion to their names. If the wealth of these centi-billionaires were more evenly distributed then there’d be room for a larger number of ordinary billionaires — but perhaps this isn’t a top social justice priority.
Thirdly, billionaires tend to be created by the founding and rapid expansion of new industries. China, which is catching up with more than a century of American growth in just a few decades, is an economy on fast forward. This provides more get-rich-quick opportunities than a mature western economy.
Finally, we have to think about the nature of these rapidly expanding industries. China’s super-wealthy tend to be property developers and industrialists. By spamming tower blocks and polluting factories across a nation of more than a billion people, they’ve certainly generated high levels of economic growth — which is why the Chinese government has allowed them to get rich in the process.
The long-term test, though, is sustainability — and not just in the environmental sphere. Enduring economic growth depends upon genuine innovation. If Chinese entrepreneurs start getting rich by creating industries that the West finds itself copying, then we’ll have something to envy.