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Families dominate Chinese rich lists, but concerns grow for future of family businesses

Demand for property, soft drinks and the internet in China is generating huge wealth for some of the country’s citizens, according to two new rich lists, but there are also rising concerns about the future of the country’s private or family businesses.

Demand for property, soft drinks and the internet in China is generating huge wealth for some of the country’s citizens, according to two new rich lists, but there are also rising concerns about the future of the country’s private or family businesses.

Joseph Fan, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said China has seen massive growth in private sector enterprises over the last 30 years, with multiple family members working together to create some of the country’s most successful businesses.

But there are now fears that the high growth rate of the private sector cannot be sustained amid increased government involvement in business.

“There is concern that future growth prospects are heavily affected by government intervention in the markets,” Fan told CampdenFB.

A number of people from well-known family businesses featured prominently on both the Forbes China Rich List and the latest China Rich List from luxury publishing and events company Hurun Report.

New Hope Group’s Liu Yonghao and his family ranked fourth on the Forbes’s list with $6.6 billion (€4.7 billion), thanks to interests in property, finance and animal feed. Liu and three of his brothers founded the New Hope Group in the 1970s, becoming millionaires within a few years.

Property tycoon Wu Yajun and her family also featured in the top 10 of both lists, with Forbes estimating a personal fortune of $5.9 billion, compared to Hurun’s $6.6 billion.

Most Chinese businesses are still in their first generation, said Fan, although husbands and wives or siblings will often work together in the company.

“Families are not just worried about finding a next-generation successor, but also government intervention is causing concerns about the company’s future,” he added.

Liang Wengen, who founded and now owns 58% of the Sany Group – the world’s biggest manufacturer of concrete pumping machinery, is China’s richest man, according to both Forbes and the Hurun Report.

His fortune of $11 billion saw him jump four places up the Hurun list over the year, knocking beverage magnate Zong Qinghou of the Wahaha company to second place. In contrast, Forbes estimates Liang’s fortune at $9.3 billion.

Co-founder of China's top internet search engine Baidu Robin Li was ranked as the second richest man by Forbes and the third by Harun.

There was a 43% increase in the number of billionaires year on year, rising to 271 from 189, according to the Hurun Report.

"China's rich have defied the global financial crisis with another record year of growth," Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of the Hurun Report, said in a statement.

Property was the main source of wealth for 29 of the top 50 on the Hurun list.  

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