Zhong Shanshan (Not Jack Ma) Is the Richest Guy in China and He Sells Water

Tue, Jan 5, 2021 8:02 AM on Exclusive, International,

"China is more capitalist than California or Massachusetts."
– Jim Rogers

This statement by Jim Rogers speaks volumes about the communist country that likes to remain isolated from its international counterparts, at least until now.

James Rogers (born October 19, 1942) is an American investor and financial commentator based in Singapore.

In a CNBC interview, Rogers once said that people in China are extremely motivated and driven, and he wants to be in that type of environment, so his daughters become motivated and driven. He also stated that this is how America and Europe used to be. However, he chose not to move to Chinese cities like Hong Kong or Shanghai due to the high levels of pollution causing potential health problems for his family. Hence, he chose Singapore.

But this article isn't about Jim Rogers. It is rather a journalistic observation on how China and its richest billionaires are ahead of the game in global competition, which is evident in the recent spike in the number of new billionaires in the country, its lavish nightlife, or the luxury supermalls. As one who has witnessed all these will remark, at its core, China is in no way a communist country. It is as capitalist as capitalist countries are, if not more.

China is arguably the most "Happening" country at the present

According to Forbes.com, the pandemic has proved no match for China’s wealth juggernaut. The total wealth of China’s 400 Richest soared to $2.11 trillion, from $1.29 trillion a year earlier. The 64% gain was due to the easing of capital-market rules and an economic rebound that enabled China to pull ahead of the world’s other large economies in recovering from the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of the listees saw their fortunes climb in the past year. The minimum net worth needed to make the list rose to $1.55 billion, compared with $1 billion a year ago.

China will overtake the US to become the world's largest economy by 2028, five years earlier than previously forecast, a report says.

Today, all the big factories are establishing their manufacturing plants in China, making it the world's leading economic superpower. It has become home to mass production.

China has made rapid advances in areas such as education, infrastructure, high-tech manufacturing, academic publishing, patents, and commercial applications and is now in some areas and by some measures a world leader.

It suffices to say that all these have led speculators and forward-thinkers like Rogers to hail the country. Needless to say, China hasn't led this group of people down.

Just look at the richest folks!

Despite a global pandemic that continues to drive volatility in the stock markets, China’s billionaires are richer than ever.

There were 68 newcomers to the Chinese list ranking the richest 400 individuals in the year 2020. In perspective, there were only 18 newcomers to the U.S. list (the Forbes 400).

China's Richest Man

It is not Jack Ma.

Talking about Jack Ma, Chinese billionaire, business magnate, investor, and philanthropist Jack Ma was set to make history again with the Ant IPO. He was destined to be even more wealthy while doing it.

However, the halt to the Ant listing and Alibaba’s dive amid investigations have given Ma a hard time. Plunging shares in Alibaba Group amid a China government anti-monopoly probe have further pushed Jack Ma's fortune lower.

While writing this article, Jack Ma does not hold the richest-guy badge in China. It is rather held by Zhong Shanshan, who is as ordinary as his company and area of business. His company Nongfu Spring is neither a tech giant nor a pharma major nor even a retail behemoth. According to moneycontrol, its principal product, bottled water, is as mundane as it gets and hardly unique in any way.

Nongfu also produces bottled tea and juices but the real success comes from the millions of bottles of clean water it sells.

While writing this article, Forbes's real-time data shows that Zhong Shanshan is worth $86.5 Billion, with a capital B. Zhong’s fortune has rocketed with the Sept. 8 listing of his main business, Nongfu Spring, which controls about a quarter of China’s bottled water market.

Zhong Shanshan is the richest guy in China and he sells water

If there is one thing growing as fast as development in China, it is the country's pollution levels. Chinese citizens are wary of tap water in a country that has witnessed major incidents of pollution in its rivers. This is where the vast and hugely efficient distribution network of Nongfu Spring's clean water wins the customers' hearts.

Problems are the creators of opportunities. China's pollution problem gives Zhong Shanshan the unique distinction of being the only one from this business to be the country’s richest person.

If one goes by the reports in the Chinese media, Zhong is known as a “Lone Wolf”, he does not involve himself in politics or business groups. Moreover, he is rarely seen making public appearances and talking to the media. Many speculate that his reign is short-lived and will be outpaced by more scalable business sectors. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how long China will celebrate the country's bottled water king.