Oct 28, 2021 09:42 PM

New-Energy Billionaires Race Up China’s Rich List

China’s new-energy sector billionaires reached new heights on this year’s Hurun China Rich List, buoyed in equal measure by the country’s ambitious green goals and the fading fortunes of rivals exposed to real estate and internet-related sectors.

Zhong Shanshan, the founder of bottled water giant Nongfu Spring, scored first place on the China list this year, with a net worth of $60.5 billion. It was his second year on the list.

But this year, 60 Chinese executives from green energy firms or companies mainly focused on new-energy vehicles (NEV) made the ranking, up from 50 last year. Nearly 40 of the 50 who made the list last year grew their wealth.

In contrast, not one property billionaire ranked in the top 10 this year, as Beijing continues to target the troubled sector.

“New energy is the big story of the year, with eight of the 10 fastest climbers related to new energy, led by (Robin) Zeng,” the Hurun report said.

Zeng, the founder and chairman of battery-maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) (300750.SZ), almost tripled his wealth to $49.7 billion this year. He is the third richest person in China. All seven names from the Shenzhen-listed Tesla battery supplier have climbed up the ranks.

The founder and CEO of NEV-maker BYD Co. Ltd., Wang Chuanfu, almost tripled his wealth to $22 billion to take him to the 20th place, while Li Xiang from Li Auto Inc. saw his wealth jump 62.5%, and his position rise to 67. Xpeng Inc. Chairman and CEO He Xiaopeng, fell slightly to 100th place, four spots lower than last year.

The founder of rival NEV-maker Nio Inc., William Li, nearly doubled his wealth to $6.9 billion, earning him the rank of 84th.

China is scaling up its renewable energy use in the coming decades as part of ambitious pledges to achieve peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero carbon emissions before 2060. The roadmap guidance it released Monday set a target of increasing the share of non-fossil energy in the country’s energy mix to around 20% by 2025, 25% by 2030 and 80% by 2060.

Senior executives from the real estate and internet industries were not as fortunate. The Hurun report said that “for the first time, real estate did not have a single entrepreneur in the top 10 (of China list).”

This year, China’s richest real estate moguls were led by Yang Huiyan of Country Garden Holdings Co. Ltd., the 11th richest person in the country. Last year, Yang ranked sixth.

Hui Ka Yan, the chairman of embattled China Evergrande Group, saw his rank plunge from China’s fifth richest person last year to 70th, after his wealth dropped 68.9% to $11.3 billion.

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and last year’s richest, saw his wealth slump 36%, and his rank drop to fifth after his companies’ well-documented clashes with various Chinese regulators. Twenty-five of 26 executives from the group saw their wealth shrink, with the exception of Joseph C. Tsai, the executive vice-chairman of the group who joined the list for the first time at No. 87. In April, Alibaba was fined $2.8 billion in a landmark China antitrust ruling.

Pony Ma, founder of the tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., also suffered under China’s “crackdown on video gaming” and dropped to the fourth from the second-richest a year ago.

The founder of TikTok’s parent company, Zhang Yiming, overtook Pony Ma and Jack Ma to become the second-richest person in China this year. His fortune more than tripled to $52.8 billion.

Contact reporter Manyun Zou ( and editor Bertrand Teo (

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