How China Has Changed Since the Last Leadership Transition
China's billionaire count has surged in the past decade, spurred on by the country's rapid economic development.
In 2001, China had only one billionaire, but that number has jumped to 251 this year —according to the Shanghai based Hurun Report — making it second only to the U.S. in the world when it comes to most billionaires. Billionaires account for just 1.3 percent of wealth individuals with $30 million or more in China, but control nearly a quarter of the ultra-rich group's wealth of $1.58 trillion, according to research firm Wealth-X. These billionaires are worth an average of almost $2.6 billion each.
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China's consumption and construction boom are two of the major drivers of wealth for the super-rich with a majority of billionaires counting on property as one of their main sources of wealth. The public listing of companies has also made business owners billionaires overnight. But recently, the stock market has also caused China's billionaires to lose almost a third of their combined wealth with the benchmark Shanghai Composite falling 20 percent from August 2011 to July 2012, according to Wealth-X. In total, the population of China's wealthy with assets worth $30 million and above shrank by 2.3 percent in the past year, while their combined wealth decreased nearly 7 percent to $1.6 trillion.
Consumer spending in China has seen double digit growth for a decade, creating a path for the country to become the world's biggest consumer market by 2015, according to government authorities.
Its fast growing consumer class of about 130 million has given a big boost to markets from retail and housing to travel and other discretionary sectors. China's consumer retail sales, for example, are expected to surpass $5 trillion in 2015, according to Commerce Minister Chen Deming. Rising incomes amid rapid urbanization are major reasons behind China's consumption boom and the World Bank expects the growth to continue as income per capita climbs to more than triple to $16,000 by 2030 from about $5,000 now.
Businesses like carmakers, luxury retailers, and hotel chains have been flocking to the world's second largest economy to target Chinese consumers. Italian fashion house Prada, for example, counts on China as its biggest market with 30 percent of its global sales in the fiscal year that ended in January 2012 coming from the country. The luxury retailer has 19 stores in China, but plans to open up to 15 more this year. The world's largest premium carmaker BMW, meanwhile, increased sales of its flagship BMW brand in China by 55 percent in September compared to the previous year, while its Mini cars saw sales jump a whopping 121 percent in the same period.
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But not all retailers have had a similar level of success in China. Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement chain, struggled to win over Chinese shoppers with its U.S. style do-it-yourself model. The U.S retailer announced in September that it will close all seven of its big box stores to focus on specialty stores and e-commerce in China.
- By CNBC's Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani.