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9. He Xiangjian, 69

Fortune: $6.3 billion
Company: Midea Group

He Xiangjian is the founder and chairman of Midea Group — China’s second largest publicly traded appliance maker.

Making his first appearance in the top 10 list, He started a workshop that made small plastic bottle lids in 1968 and went on to found Midea in 1980. The household goods manufacturer, and retail empire now has over 13,000 stores across China. The firm, based in Guangdong, employs up to 130,000 people and has three overseas production bases in Vietnam, Belarus and Egypt. Midea’s revenue grew to $9.7 billion in the first half of 2011.

Despite its booming success, the firm’s manufacturing standards have recently been put into question. Earlier this month, media reports surfaced that Midea along with other industry leaders used industrial lubricant in their manufacturing instead of lubricant that is meant for food processors and juicers. The lubricant was reportedly used to reduce costs, and contains hazardous carcinogenic material. However, Midea employees have publicly denied the reports and have been quoted as saying that the firm’s products comply with national standards.

Photo: Midea Group