BEIJING (Reuters) - China has overtaken the United States as the country with the most billionaires, according to a survey released on Thursday, despite a slowdown in growth in the world's second-largest economy.
The number of U.S. dollar billionaires in mainland China more than doubled to 596 from last year's 242, according to a list of China's super-rich published by Hurun Reports Inc. That compares with 537 American billionaires, it said.
"Despite the slowdown in the economy, China's richest have defied gravity, recording their best year ever, and creating more wealth than any country has ever done before in a year," said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.
China's booming information technology industry was the fastest-growing source of wealth, with the number of individuals from the industry on the list jumping 43 percent on last year.
Wanda property group head Wang Jianlin took first place with an estimated fortune of $34.4 billion, overtaking Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) executive chairman Jack Ma, after a plunge in the e-commerce giant's share price.
Four property developers made it into the top 10, while tech billionaires accounted for another four, including Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) founder Pony Ma in fourth place with an $18.8 billion fortune and cellphone maker Xiaomi Inc [XTC.UL] co-founder Lei Jun in fifth position with $14.2 billion.
According to Hurun, 16 of the 1,877 people on its rich list are in different degrees of trouble with the Chinese authorities, including seven under investigation, four awaiting sentencing and three who have disappeared altogether.
Individuals needed wealth of at least $320 million to make the list.
Reporting By Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Richard Pullin