Tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu dominate China’s rich list as blockchain firms rise
The family of Alibaba founder Jack Ma reclaimed the top spot after four years as China’s richest on the 2018 Hurun Rich List -- China's most-cited list of its wealthiest people.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)
The Alibaba founder isn’t the only tech giant on the list. Tencent’s Pony Ma, Baidu’s Robin Li and his wife, and Xiaomi’s Lei Jun are respectively ranked second, ninth and tenth.
That’s the overall top ten. Let’s take a closer look at the notable tech names on the rich list.
1) Jack Ma & family (Alibaba)
Following the revaluation of Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba, Jack Ma and his family's wealth increased by US$10 billion to a whopping US$39 billion this year. The last time the 54-year-old billionaire topped the list was four years ago.
Ma recently announced his retirement plan, promoting Daniel Zhang to Alibaba’s executive chairman in 12 months, while keeping himself board of directors until 2020.
3) Pony Ma (Tencent)
Tencent co-founder Pony Ma is in third with US$35 billion. Pony Ma saw his wealth decrease by over US$1.4 billion this year, after the government tightened regulations on game publishing -- a blow for the world’s biggest gaming company. Tencent’s valuation has retreated by as much as 37.98% from its peak this year.
It’s also worth noting that Zhang Zhidong, another co-founder of Tencent, is also ranked as China’s 13th richest man.
9) Robin Li & Melissa Ma (Baidu)
As China’s homegrown search engine, Baidu was once the country’s biggest tech company. But the rapid growth of Alibaba and Tencent overshadowed Baidu in the early 2010s. Today Baidu’s Robin Li and his wife Melissa Ma are no.9 on the list with a wealth of US$17 billion.
The company was seeing a boom in the past two years as it rebrands itself as a leader in AI and driverless cars. But recently, a sell-off in Chinese stocks, driven by the U.S.-China trade war, has been hitting shares of Baidu.
10) Lei Jun (Xiaomi)
This is the first time the smartphone maker and self-proclaimed disciple of Steve Jobs cracked Hurun’s top ten.
13) Colin Huang (Pinduoduo)
Colin Huang, the founder of e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, is the rising star on this list. This is his first appearance on this list, but he has already amassed a net worth of US$14 billion.
It came just three years after the ex-Googler started Pinduoduo, which listed on the NASDAQ in July. Pinduoduo differentiates itself from other ecommerce platforms by giving consumers in lower-tier cities discounts for purchasing in groups.
16) Ding Lei (NetEase)
The founder of China’s second biggest gaming company, NetEase, Ding Lei has a net worth of US$13 billion. Unlike Tencent, which focuses more on its domestic market, NetEase delivers a truckload of games to China’s neighboring countries. It has also recently invested in Halo and Destiny developer Bungie to help it develop a new franchise, showing its ambition to crack the West.
But the company was hit hard by the same regulatory shakeup in gaming that affected Tencent, causing Ding to drop six places on this list from last year.
24) Richard Liu (JD.com)
Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com is having a shaky year, with its shares declining for the past five months. And the recent US investigation into Liu for an alleged sexual assault in Minneapolis has also had an impact on the company’s valuation. Liu’s wealth current sits at US$11 billion.
26) Zhang Yiming (ByteDance)
The developer of China’s top news and short video apps, ByteDance, saw its founder Zhang Yiming’s fortune more than double this year, thrusting him into the list’s top 30 with a net worth of US$9.4 billion.
ByteDance’s success is down to its algorithm, which recommends content to users. But like Facebook, it’s getting a lot of flak from the government for allowing off-color jokes and questionable content on its platforms, including Toutiao.
So what are the other new trends this year?
The recent downturn in China’s stock market has dealt a blow to the fortunes of China’s super rich. Candidates qualified for the list -- individuals with holdings worth more than 2 billion yuan (US$209 million) -- fell to fewer than 2,000 for the first time since 2015.
On the other hand, individuals from the blockchain industry are making the list for the first time. The list identifies blockchain as the fastest-growing industry, seeing 14 new faces from the blockchain industry on this year’s list.
The two founders of Bitcoin miner Bitmain and the founder of crypto exchange Binance rank as the leading blockchain entrepreneurs in the country.