In the dynamic landscape of China’s economic ascent, this article explores the extraordinary wealth and business empires of the country’s top five billionaires. From Zhong Shanshan, founder of Nongfu Spring, with a net worth of $62.3 billion, to Zhang Yiming, the visionary behind ByteDance and TikTok, these individuals epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit propelling China to unprecedented global influence and affluence.
List of the wealthiest people in China
Zhong Shanshan, a Chinese entrepreneur, serves as the founder and chairman of Nongfu Spring beverage company and holds the majority ownership of Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise. As of 2022, he holds the title of the wealthiest individual in China, amassing a net worth of $60.1 billion. Born in Hangzhou, Zhong faced disruptions during China’s Cultural Revolution, leading to his dropout from elementary school. Subsequently, he took on various roles, working as a construction laborer, a newspaper journalist, and a beverage sales agent before venturing into entrepreneurship. Zhong also commands Wantai Biological, a company specializing in rapid diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Zhang Yiming, a Chinese internet entrepreneur, established ByteDance in 2012, creating the news aggregator Toutiao and the video-sharing platform TikTok (previously Musical.ly). With a net worth of USD 43.4 billion, Zhang’s ByteDance has faced a recent decline in valuation, fueled by concerns over potential bans on TikTok in the U.S. market. ByteDance spans various sectors, including news, education, and video gaming. Zhang initiated ByteDance in 2012 from a four-bedroom apartment in Beijing, introducing the news-aggregation app Toutiao shortly thereafter.
Colin Huang, also known as Huang Zheng, is a Chinese entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist recognized as the founder and former CEO of the e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, currently China’s largest agriculture platform. Additionally, Huang holds ownership in at least three other limited liability companies, including Pinduoduo. In September 2022, PDD, under Huang’s leadership, launched Temu, a budget shopping site aimed at competing with Shein, overseen by fellow Chinese billionaire Sky Xu. Before Pinduoduo, Huang demonstrated his entrepreneurial prowess by establishing the online games company Xinyoudi and the e-commerce platform Ouku.com. Armed with a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, Huang’s professional journey commenced with internships at Microsoft in both Beijing and Seattle, followed by a career at Google in the United States starting in 2004.
Ma Huateng, widely known as Pony Ma, serves as the chairman of Tencent Holdings, a prominent Chinese internet company. Tencent’s renowned social messaging app, WeChat, boasts a massive user base of 1.3 billion. As one of the largest video game publishers globally, Tencent owns a stake in U.S. video game company Epic Games. The company also holds interests in electric car manufacturer Tesla and music-streaming service Spotify, which reciprocates with a stake in Tencent Music. Before establishing Tencent in 1998, Ma played a pivotal role in the research and development of Internet paging systems at China Motion Telecom Development. As of now, his net worth stands at USD 32.1 billion.
Ding Lei, also recognized as William Ding, is a Chinese billionaire entrepreneur who founded and serves as the CEO of NetEase. Ding played a crucial role in advancing computer networks in mainland China, contributing significantly to the industry. With a net worth of USD 32 billion, NetEase, under Ding’s leadership, not only encompasses legacy titles like Fantasy Westward but also features games like Eggy Party and Justice Mobile, a battle game utilizing AI for storyline generation. To cope with formidable competition in the gaming sector, particularly from Tencent, NetEase has diversified into movies, e-commerce, and online music. In 2003, Ding held the titles of China’s richest individual and the country’s inaugural internet and gaming billionaire. Beyond technology, Ding demonstrates an interest in sustainable agriculture, as evidenced by NetEase’s e-commerce branch, Yanxuan, selling pork sourced from the company’s farms.