China’s 200 richest lawmakers are worth more than $500bn, according to the Hurun Report, which tracks the fortunes of the country’s wealthiest people.
The Communist party officially welcomed private-sector business people into its fold in 2002, when the Chinese economy was the world’s sixth-largest. Their wealth has since soared in tandem with the Chinese economy, which is now second only to that of the US.
According to Hurun data, the 200 richest members of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress, an advisory body, have combined fortunes worth nearly Rmb3.5tn ($507bn). The wealth of the 100 richest lawmakers soared over the past four years to Rmb3tn, up from Rmb1.64tn in 2013.
They include the heirs of some of Hong Kong’s biggest fortunes, but most are first-generation Chinese billionaires such as Pony Ma and Robin Li, founders respectively of internet companies Tencent and Baidu.
China’s richest men and women have tended to adopt a lower profile since President Xi Jinping launched a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign, which has focused on the links between party officials and private business people. But NPC and CPPCC membership is still coveted by many executives, for whom it is an easy way to profess their patriotism and party loyalty.
This year’s NPC, which rubber-stamps decisions made by the ruling Communist party, begins on Sunday and runs in parallel with the CPPCC. More than 5,000 delegates attend the two sessions, which convene every March.
One of the main topics at this year’s gatherings will be the party’s recently launched war on financial speculation, a practice that has multiplied the fortunes of many businesspeople.
Last year the wealth of Yao Zhenhua, a property and insurance magnate, increased ninefold to $17bn on the back of his bidding war for control of one of China’s largest property companies. Last month the country’s insurance regulator banned Mr Yao from the sector for 10 years.
Chinese authorities have also recently convicted or detained other wealthy investors such as Xu Xiang, a billionaire investor who led a group of hedge funds, and financier Xiao Jianhua.
The country’s securities regulator has vowed to root out market “crocodiles” who allegedly manipulate listed companies under their control and profit from insider trading. Police are also continuing wide-ranging investigations into China’s July 2015 stock market crash.
“They are trying to keep speculative capital out of the stock market,” said Rupert Hoogewerf at Hurun.
It would be difficult to do so, he added, especially after Wang Wei, founder of logistics company SF Express, last week reversed the business into a shell company on the Shenzhen stock market — becoming an overnight billionaire and China’s third-richest man.
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