China is minting billionaires at an astonishing pace
Despite a deceleration in China's economic growth, the country is minting billionaires at an astonishing pace.
The number of billionaires in the world's second-largest economy hit a fresh record high of 315 in 2013, compared with 251 a year earlier, and zero a decade ago, according to the annual Hurun Wealth Report - a ranking of the 1,000 wealthiest individuals in the nation. The U.S., by comparison, is home to 442 billionaires, according to Forbes.
(Read more: Global billionaire population tops 2,000)
"Strong performances in real estate and IT have driven China's richest to new records," said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher. Around one in four billionaires generated their wealth from property, surpassing manufacturing to become the key source of income.
Topping the list is real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin, whose wealth more than doubled on year to $22 billion, knocking Zong Qinghou of leading beverage maker Wahaha out of the top spot.
59-year-old Wang Jianlin, chairman of conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, made his fortune in property, owning a 61 percent stake in the company's real estate arm, according to Hurun. In addition to real estate, Dalian Wanda has been building up its entertainment business; it acquired U.S. movie theater chain AMC Theatres last year to become the world's largest cinema operator.
While China may be catching up in terms of the size of its billionaire population, not all billionaires are created equal. For example, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, the richest person in the U.S., has an estimated net worth of $67 billion, three times that of Wang.
Ranking second, Zong Qinghou, 68, nicknamed the "drinks king", saw his wealth grow by 48 percent on year to $18.7 billion as profits at Wahaha registered solid growth.
In third place is 42-year-old Ma Huateng, co-founder of Tencent Holdings, the country's largest internet company by revenue. The youngest to make the top 10 list, Ma's personal fortune grew to $10.1 billion thanks to the 65 percent rise in Tencent's shares over the past year.
(Read more: Chinese look abroad to preserve wealth: Report)
Interestingly, a sizable portion of China's billionaires have ties to the ruling political party, the report showed.
Of the 1,000 individuals on the rich list, 153 were appointed to the 12th National People's Congress or Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani; Follow her on Twitter