Richest lawmakers' fortunes have grown since Xi's rise

From top: Mr Pony Mah; Mr Robin Li; and Mr Zong Qinghou are among the wealthiest members of China's elite.
Above: Mr Pony Mah; Mr Robin Li; and Mr Zong Qinghou are among the wealthiest members of China's elite.
From top: Mr Pony Mah; Mr Robin Li; and Mr Zong Qinghou are among the wealthiest members of China's elite.
Mr Pony Mah; (above) Mr Robin Li; and Mr Zong Qinghou are among the wealthiest members of China's elite.
From top: Mr Pony Mah; Mr Robin Li; and Mr Zong Qinghou are among the wealthiest members of China's elite.
Mr Pony Mah; Mr Robin Li; and Mr Zong Qinghou (above) are among the wealthiest members of China's elite.

BEIJING • The combined fortune of the wealthiest members of China's Parliament and top advisory body amounts to US$500 billion (S$707 billion), just below the annual economic output of Sweden.

Among this group of 209 entrepreneurs and business tycoons, the 100 richest saw their net worth rise 64 per cent in the four years since President Xi Jinping took power, according to the Hurun Report, a Shanghai-based organisation that tracks wealth in China.

This group boasts some of the most famous names in corporate China, including Mr Pony Ma, chief executive of Tencent Holdings; Mr Robin Li, chief executive of Baidu; Mr Zong Qinghou, founder of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group, a beverage-maker; and Mr Lei Jun, founder of phone-maker Xiaomi.

It also includes some Hong Kong tycoons, including Mr Victor Li, whose father Li Ka Shing is chairman of C.K. Hutchison Holdings.

Mr Xi has overseen a crackdown on corruption and decadence, and made the fight against poverty a top priority after becoming president in 2013.

However, the increasing wealth of lawmakers "tells us that political power and money have remained tightly intertwined in China: This is a structural issue that Xi cannot solve" but only hide, said professor of Chinese politics Jean-Pierre Cabestan at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Professor of Chinese politics David Zweig at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said he did not think the public would react negatively to the Hurun report.

"It's basically a society where next year is going to be better than last year and it's been going on for 30 years, so there's no reason to assume that people are going to look at these guys and say: 'Oh, they're really dirty. They worked hard, they knew people, they got skills,'" Prof Zweig said.

"That's part of the stability of the Communist Party," he added. "So there may not be that earthquake so fast."

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Richest lawmakers' fortunes have grown since Xi's rise'. Print Edition | Subscribe