The U.S. has lost its crown as the country with the most billionaires.
According to a report released Thursday, China minted 242 billionaires over the past year, leading to a nearly 70 percent jump in its billionaire population. The country’s 596 billionaires surpassed the number of billionaires in the United States, at 537, according to the Hurun Rich List.
Released Thursday, the report found China produced nearly five billionaires a week during the year ended Aug. 14.
To be sure, the list was created at the beginning of China’s stock market swoon — so it’s unclear how much wealth was destroyed during the remainder of August and September. At the time of the list’s cutoff, stock markets were already 30 percent off their June peak, but have dropped another 14 percent since.
“Despite the slowdown in the economy, China’s richest have defied gravity, recording their best year ever, and creating more wealth than any country has ever done before in a year,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, the Hurun Report’s chairman and chief researcher.
The numbers from Hurun, a Chinese-based wealth research and luxury-advisory company, differ from those of Forbes, which said in March that China had only 213 billionaires, compared with 536 in the U.S. (For more on the fuzzy math of calculating billionaires see here.)
Yet they nonetheless suggest that despite widespread fears of a slowdown in China’s economy and the government’s crackdown on the wealthy, the Chinese super-rich continue to prosper. According to the report, the total combined wealth of China’s billionaires was $2.1 trillion.
With a net worth of $34.4 billion, Wang Jianlin and Dalian Wanda have made a string of high-profile purchases in recent years, including a $20.4 million Monet he bought at Sotheby’s this spring.
Technology was the fastest-growing source of wealth among the top 10, according to Hurun, yet real estate was still the largest source of wealth for those Chinese rich. Five of the top 10 richest billionaires made their money from real estate.
The government crackdown on corruption among the Chinese rich also has had ripple effects for several names on the billionaire list. Hurun said that 16 of the people on the 2014 rich list are in “varying degrees of trouble with the authorities,” with one in jail, four awaiting trial, seven under investigation, one under arrest and three with “whereabouts unknown.”
According to the report, 95 percent of the Chinese rich are self-made.
“The influence of these top entrepreneurs is growing, as we saw in September when President Xi took nine of the Hurun Rich List in his official 15-strong entourage to visit the U.S.,” Hoogewerf said.