China’s rich rushing to cash-in on ‘new’ industries

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When China's annual "rich list'' was last week revealed to the world, it wasn't so much who came out on top but what they did that caused the most surprise.

The nation's two richest people are heavily involved in China's "green'' industries - a remarkable rise in the fortunes of a business sector unheard of in the country as little as 10 years ago.

And there seems no end to its development, with government-sponsored subsidies and off-shore companies lined up to support and encourage other business people to follow the trend and enter the green market.

The Shanghai-based Hurun Report ( which each year charts the rise (and the demise) of China's wealthy, showed Wang Chuanfu, owner of electric-car maker BYD, had come out on top with an bank roll of some US$5.1 billion (3.4 billion euros).

In second place was Zhang Yin, founder of the paper-recycling company Nine Dragons Paper, who has amassed a fortune of some US$4.9 billion (3.3 billion euros).

Wang - who has assumed the lead in the push for electric cars in China - had never been in the annual list's top 10 before, rising 102 positions, while Zhang was in 2006 the first woman to top the list, was ranked second in 2007 but had fallen to 15th last year as the world economic crises hit the recycling business.

But, like Wang, she has seen unprecedented interest in her environmentally sound business over the past 12 months - and together they are leading a rush of entrepreneurs whose endeavors are built along the same lines.

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection recently reported that the entire output value of the 1,300 Chinese enterprises now involved in the "environmental protection industry'' will reach 900 billion yuan (89 billion euros) by the end of this year. And it has been fuelled by a 210 billion yuan (20.5 billion euros) stimulus package.

Down south, the Hong Kong Government has noticed the trend - and urged local businesses to get involved.

A HK$93 million (eight million euros) "Cleaner Production Partnership Programme with Guangdong'' has been set up and in 12 months more than 100 Hong Kong environmental technology service providers have linked with factories in the southern Pearl River Delta area.

While property and stock market investors still dominated the top 100, other "new'' industries are also beginning to make their mark in mainland China, not the least of which is the online gaming and services industry which accounted for six of this year's 50 richest Chinese.

Leading the way is Ma Huateng, with an estimated wealth of US$3.6 billion (2.4 billion euros), collected from Tencent, the company which created the QQ system - China's most popular online messaging system.

China currently has an estimated has 338 million internet users, a growth in numbers of 25.3 per cent in just one year, and it is predicted the market will grow by a similar rate over the next 12 months.