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26-year-old woman is China's richest person: Forbes

Yang Huiyan (right), the richest person on the Chinese mainland, and her husband pose for a photo during their wedding ceremony in Shunde, South China's Guangdong Province, in this undated photo.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 8, 2007
A 26-year-old female property developer tops this year's Forbes list of the richest people in China, grabbing the number one spot with a net worth of 16 billion dollars, the US magazine said Monday.

That amount also makes Yang Huiyan the richest woman in Asia, according to a statement from Forbes.

All 40 people on Forbes Asia's 2007 China Rich List are billionaires, compared with only 15 last year, it said, attributing the rise to a boom in the nation's stock and property markets.

Their combined net worth is 120 billion dollars, up more than three times from last year's 38 billion dollars, it said.

The list was published as China prepares for the opening next week of the 17th Congress of the Communist Party, where the growing gap between rich and poor is likely to be among the top agenda items.

The nation's rulers are concerned that the widening difference between the haves and have-nots could endanger social cohesion in the world's most populous nation.

Yang, a graduate of Ohio State University, is the daughter of Yeung Kwok Keung, the co-founder of Country Garden Holdings, a property development firm.

Yeung transferred his shareholdings to his daughter in 2005, and she now sits on the company's board as an executive director, Forbes said.

Yang is one of more than a dozen property developers to make this year's Rich List, reflecting roaring demand for homes and real estate investments, according to Forbes.

"Household incomes are rising rapidly, and a growing number of people are moving into cities from rural areas," said list compiler Russell Flannery.

"Those trends are creating great business opportunity for property developers in the country."

The latest Forbes list had 20 newcomers including solar energy entrepreneur Peng Xiaofeng.

Last year's number one, Wong Kwong Yu, fell to number 10 even though his fortune increased by 56 percent to 3.6 billion dollars, the statement said.

The list underlined that south China, where economic reform first took off more than two decades ago, remained the centre of gravity for the country's economic might.

South China's free-wheeling Guangdong province produced 13 billionaires, more than any other region, according to Forbes.

"Guangdong has been overshadowed of late because the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai's growing international role have attracted a lot of attention," Flannery said in the statement.

"This list illustrates that southern China still has plenty of money and plenty of entrepreneurial zest."

Rich lists are seen as important barometers of wider changes affecting the global economy.

The number of billionaires in China and India nearly doubled in 2006, pushing Japan from Asia's top spot for the first time in 20 years, Forbes Magazine said earlier this year.

earlier related report
China's leaders look to Tianjin for economic utopia
English-speaking and ambitious, high-ranking officials are remoulding the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin in the hope of creating a new path for the nation's economic development.

Their dream is a future where the factories are high-tech, the workforce educated, and the environment unscathed.

"We face the responsibility of creating a model that won't cost too much, whether in money terms or in environmental sacrifice," said Ni Xiangyu, vice chairman of the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, or TEDA.

"It's a new model for northern China's heavy industrial areas, and for western China," he said, referring to the two regions lagging behind the booming east coast.

At its five-yearly Congress starting on Monday, China's Communist Party leaders will chart the course for the world's fourth largest economy until 2012.

The concepts being tried in Tianjin -- home city of Premier Wen Jiabao and just 90 minutes' drive from Beijing -- are widely seen as a test-run in the regime's efforts to curb the excesses of decades of breakneck economic growth.

At the Congress, President Hu Jintao is expected to have his ideology of "scientific development" incorporated into the party's charter.

This, and his campaign to build a "harmonious society," aim to address the the widening divide in China between rich and poor, city and countryside, east and west.

These concepts also intend to ensure the environment is protected as the nation develops.

Efforts in the first five years of Hu's reign have been regarded as patchy, with the wealth divide growing and the environmental crisis worsening.

"Life remains difficult for many low-income people," Premier Wen Jiabao said in his annual "state of the union" address to parliament in March.

"The pattern of economic growth is inefficient. This can be seen most clearly in excessive energy consumption and serious environmental pollution," he said in the same address.

But although pollution is still a problem in Tianjin, a city of nearly 11 million people on the Bohai Bay, it is possible to get a feel of what China's leaders are aiming for.

Officials here are brimming with optimism when they talk about the synergies that will emerge when Tianjin is linked with the capital by a hyper-modern high-speed rail connection that will shorten the travel time to 30 minutes.

Together, with their many universities, the two cities have one of the world's biggest concentrations of brain power, Ni, the vice chairman of TEDA, explained enthusiastically.

By 2010, the two cities may produce a quarter of the nation's vehicles, and Tianjin could be the home of "a space shuttle manufacturing park," he said.

Already, Airbus is building its first assembly plant outside Europe in Tianjin.

TEDA, whose economy increased by 28.8 percent last year, is now part of the Tianjin Binhai New Area, an even larger zone.

Nevertheless, amid the expansionist fever, officials said they would not budge on environmental or industrial safety standards.

"We always bargain with businesspeople over land prices or tax holidays. But with standards -- no bargain," said Ni.

"My team sometimes feels a bit uncomfortable about this but I think it will be very beneficial for the coming generations."

Companies in the area confirmed the relatively strict enforcement of environmental standards, among them Novozymes, a Danish producer of enzymes.

"TEDA is very concerned about the environment. They ask all investors to comply with discharge parameters. They'll only allow investors if they can accept the discharge standards," said Lin Jishang, a director with Novozymes.

Hua Min, an economics professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, said using Tianjin as an example for others to follow was a sign of the times.

When China first opened up to foreign investment in the late 1970s, anyone with money was let in. In future, Beijing wants local policy makers to consider costs such as damage to the environment before giving the green light to companies.

"The Tianjin model will be gradually rolled out to areas across the country if it proves to be successful," he said. "It shows China's opening-up will be more selective in the future."

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Intrigue, power plays as China's communist Congress nears
Beijing (AFP) Oct 7, 2007
Amid much intrigue, China is gearing up for the ruling Communist Party's five-yearly gathering at which President Hu Jintao is expected to make bold power plays and cement his own agenda for the nation.

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