CHINA: Why Are Chinese Billionaires $500 Billion Poorer Than Last Year?

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CHINA: Why Are Chinese Billionaires $500 Billion Poorer Than Last Year?


Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen leading other top officials on a screen ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on June 28, 2021.

It’s been a bad year for Kate Wang. Things looked bright in January 2021 when the Chinese businessman’s vaping company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. By the end of the day, the then 41-year-old was worth $9 billion.


But today, he has a net worth of $500 million – a still large but increasingly risky fortune, with RLX Technology’s market value declining as it comes under increased scrutiny from Chinese tobacco regulators.

Wang is not alone and represents just one of 87 Chinese nationals to be dropped from this year’s Forbes billionaire list in the wake of government crackdowns on tech companies in the country over the past year. Overall, Chinese billionaires are $500 billion poorer than a year ago, according to the annual index released on Wednesday, which has fallen from a collective wealth of $2.5 trillion in 2021 to $1.96 trillion today.

Of the 10 billionaires worst affected—who saw the biggest drop in their net worth—eight were from China, with two Chinese education entrepreneurs making the most of their fortunes globally.


This time last year, Zhang Bangsin of TAL Education was worth $13.3 billion. Today his wealth has declined by 94 percent, and is worth $890 million. Similarly, Larry Jiangdong Chen, founder of industry rival GSX Takedu, lost $15 billion in just six months between January and July last year, and is now worth $235 million.


This dramatic drop in funding was the result of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the country’s after-school teaching industry, which it accused of causing unnecessary stress to young children. In July, Beijing advanced one of the country’s most lucrative regions as it announced a sweeping ban on for-profit classes run by educational institutions on academic subjects such as math, English and science.

Billionaires’ fallout from Chinese regulators is no accident, and President Xi Jinping has publicly spoken in recent months of curbing “excessive” wealth in China in pursuit of “shared prosperity”. In addition to the education sector, internet companies have also found themselves in regulatory crosshairs, with online retail giant Alibaba fined $3.7 billion in April last year for monopolistic practices.


But billionaires in China aren’t the only big losers on this year’s list. Russia’s billionaire group has been badly hit in the past 12 months. Swinging global sanctions and a falling ruble in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 have slashed the country’s billionaires’ net worth from $584 billion to $320 billion in just one year.


While 117 Russians populated the 2021 index, only 83 remained this year as 34 people fell below the billion-dollar threshold. Six Russian tycoons experienced double-digit declines in their wealth – the worst of them steel elite Alexei Mordashov, who lost $15.9 billion in a span of 12 months and is now worth $13.2 billion.


Vladimir Lisin, Russia’s richest man and one of the country’s first billionaires to criticize President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, lost 30 percent of his fortune, falling to $18.4 billion. In a letter to his employees published on LinkedIn in March, Lisin called the war “a great tragedy that is impossible to justify.”


Elon Musk has topped Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for the first time in this year’s billionaires list. The Tesla and SpaceX co-founder’s fortune of $219 billion, an increase of $68 billion from 2021, topped the list after it emerged Monday that he bought a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter.

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