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Sieren's China: Socialist billionaires

There are now more billionaires in China than in the US. This phenomenon will only grow in future, and the country's rich will get 'younger' says DW's Frank Sieren.

Regardless of whether China's stock markets are going through a tough time or riding high, the fact that the number of super rich in the country is bigger than in the US is not likely to change. According to a recent report, China has gone from having 242 billionaires last year to 596 that's a 70 percent leap which for the first time in this regard puts it ahead of the US, where there are only 537.

This might seem surprising at first glance. Considering that the second-largest economy in the world has been suffering recently, with growth slower than in the past 25 years and stock markets that have lost 40 percent in value since mid-June, how can the number of super-rich be getting bigger?

New billionaires often come from the service sector

DW columnist Frank Sieren

DW columnist Frank Sieren

If we look more precisely at the sectors these socialist billionaires are coming from, it is clear that they have benefitted from reforms to the Chinese economy. Beijing wants to generate more growth from the service sector than the production sector as was previously the case. The country's new billionaires are coming from the IT, leisure and entertainment sectors and less and less from real estate.

The richest man in the country best represents the current transformation - Wang Jianlin, the chairman of the Dalian Wanda group, has increased his fortune by 54 percent in the past year, that's a whopping $34 billion. Once a real estate company, Wanda has become the world's biggest leisure, entertainment and sports conglomerate.

Rich Chinese people are often very young

The self-made businessman is not only making money from China's upcoming middle classes. He bought up the US cinema chain AMC a few years ago so is now making money from cinema goers in America. Moreover, six months ago, he bought up part of the Swiss marketing company Infront. Some of the ARD and ZDF fees that Germans pay each month go to Infront via the German Football Association, thus into Wang's bank account.

China's billionaires are also getting younger by the day - many of them were born in the 1980s. Six of the billionaires on the Harun Global Rich List 2015, the Chinese equivalent of the Forbes World's Billionaires list, are under 40. Cheng Wei (32) from the taxi app Didi Kuaidi, the online games developer Lin Qi (34) from Youzu, the "drone king" Frank Wang Tao (35) from DJI Innovations, media investor Jack Wang Qicheng (35) from Hakim, the software entrepreneur He Zhitao (33) from Liaison Interactive and Zhang Bangxin (35) from TAL Education. Deng Xiaoping's maxim that it doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice seems to be working very nicely - the cats are catching plenty of mice, regardless of the state of the economy.

DW's Frank Sieren has lived in Beijing for 20 years.