Date
19 November 2019
There are 100 million Chinese among the top 10 percent of the world's richest people, compared with 99 million in the United States. Photo: Reuters/AFP
There are 100 million Chinese among the top 10 percent of the world's richest people, compared with 99 million in the United States. Photo: Reuters/AFP

Have rich Chinese really surpassed wealthy Americans?

China has overtaken the United States in the number of rich people for the first time, according to a report by Credit Suisse.

There are 100 million Chinese among the top 10 percent of the world’s richest people, compared with 99 million in the US.

But the bar is not quite high. One only needs to have a net asset of around US$110,000 to be part of the top 10 percent, according to the Swiss bank’s annual survey.

Across the world, the average personal wealth increased by 1.2 percent to US$70,850 last year. That’s one of the slowest pace of growth in the decade, and the bank attributes it to slowing global economic growth and volatile financial markets.

It seems a lot that 100 million Chinese have joined the top 10 percent of the world’s richest people. But when it comes to overall wealth level, the US is still way ahead.

Americans have amassed a total wealth of US$106 trillion, and American adults have an average wealth of US$430,000. There are 18.61 million dollar millionaires in the US.

Chinese, by comparison, have a combined wealth of US$63.8 trillion. Chinese adults have an average wealth of just US$58,000. And there are 4.45 million millionaires in China.

The Credit Suisse report also shows the worsening wealth gap across the world. It estimates that the top 1 percent and top 10 percent of the richest people control 47 percent and 82 percent, respectively, of the world’s wealth.

The bank considers Hong Kong as the world’s second-richest economy, with adults holding an average personal wealth of US$490,000.

It is quite possible that the figure is substantially boosted by high property prices. If that is taken out, Hongkongers may not really be that rich, unless they choose to cash in their properties and emigrate to some other place where housing is much more affordable.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 22

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist