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China's billionaires got way richer in past year

Leslie Shaffer | Writer for
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Jack Ma: If you’re still poor at 35, you deserve it!

You are poor because you have no ambition. Jack Ma: Before I founded Alibaba, I invited 24 friends to my house to discuss the business opportunity. After discussing for a full two hours, they were still confused — I have to say that I may not have put myself across in a clear manner manner then. The verdict: 23 out of the 24 people in the room told me to drop the idea, for a multitude of reasons, such as: ‘you do not know anything about the internet, and more prominently, you do not have the start-up capital for this’ etc etc. There was only one friend (who was working in a bank then) who told me, “If you want to do it, just try it. If things don’t work out the way you expected it to, you can always revert back to what you were doing before.” I pondered upon this for one night, and by the next morning, I decided I would do it anyway, even if all of the 24 people opposed the idea. When I first started Alibaba, I was immediately met with strong opposition from family and friends. Looking back, I realised that the biggest ... The post Jack Ma: If you’re still poor at 35, you deserve it! appeared first on Vulcan Post.

China continued to mint more billionaires over the past year, driven largely by technology, with a two-horse race developing in the country's internet sector, according to the latest Hurun rich list.

The mainland minted 41 fresh U.S. dollar billionaires over the past year, for a total of 358 who have amassed a total of $963 billion, the report said.

It's second only to the U.S., which spawned 72 new billionaires, pushing its total to 481, based on a "snapshot" of data on January 17.

(Read more: Rich Chinese continue to flee China )

Globally, the Nine-Zero Club's total membership rose by 414 to 1,867 with a cumulative piggybank of $6.9 trillion, larger than the gross domestic (GDP) product of the world's third largest economy, Japan, Hurun said, although it noted its data may undercount the sometimes elusive club members.

The jingle in the piggybanks is getting a big boost from technology players, overtaking real estate as the key driver of wealth creation globally, and China was no exception, the report found.

The Year of the Horse has spurred a "two-horse race" between Chinese technology billionaires.

(Read more: China has a word for its crass new rich )

Jack Ma of Alibaba saw his wealth triple over the past year to $7.1 billion, ranking him at 192 on the global list, while Pony Ma of Tencent (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 700-HK) doubled his pocket change to $14 billion, ranking 70 on the global list, Hurun said, noting the Chinese family name "Ma" means horse.

Jack Ma owns 7 percent of Alibaba, which dominates China's ecommerce market and the company could be could be valued at more than $100 billion after its IPO later this year, Hurun noted.

(Read more: Chinese wealthy pull back on luxury spending )

But while technology is gaining ground, real estate remained a key driver of China's billionaire engine. Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda, ranks 26 on the global billionaire list with a $25 billion fortune, making him the highest ranked mainlander, Hurun said.

Wang has been busy over the past year. "He has now become the largest landlord in the country with 18 million square meters, and internationally. Wang has succeeded in listing his U.S. cinema chain, has purchased Sunseeker, a U.K. luxury yacht brand, has announced a $1 billion development in London and has purchased a Picasso painting for $28 million," Hurun said.

In addition, energy tycoon Li Hejun shot up to rank 136 with a $9.1 billion piggy bank on the back of his hydropower and solar businesses, the report said.

Many of China's billionaires are politically connected, with 90 holding senior political positions, up from 83 last year, the report said, with that set including NPC delegate Zong Qinghou of Wahaha, ranked 35 globally with a $20 billion bank account and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) delegate Robin Li of Baidu with a $10 billion fortune.

(Read more: Billionaire Population Hits 1,453-Or Maybe 4,000 )

To be sure, China may be gaining, but the U.S. still tops the list for the richest billionaires.

"It has been a year when developed markets have reasserted themselves against emerging markets," said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher at Hurun Report, in a statement.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates retook the top spot with a $68 billion piggybank, up $14 billion over the past year, after Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu took a hit from recent travails in emerging markets, the report found.

(Read more: Helping the rich to become $100 trillion industry )

Slim slipped to number four, with his total falling by $6 billion to around $60 billion as the Mexican peso weakened and the value of America Movil (Mexico Stock Exchange: AMXL-MX) slipped, Hurun said. One hopes he doesn't need to economize too much.

Warren Buffett and Zara founder Amancio Ortega kept their second and third ranking for a second year, with their bank accounts swelling 10 percent and 13 percent to $64 billion and $62 billion respectively, the report found.

-By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1

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