China Becomes First Country With 1,000 Billionaires: Report

China has outstripped the U.S. and become the first country with more than 1,000 billionaires, according to a new rich list out of Shanghai. However, four of the world's five richest people live in the U.S.

Despite a debilitating global pandemic, the world added 412 billionaires—an average of eight a week—last year, bringing the total number to 3,228, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2021 published on Tuesday.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, tops the list for the first time with a value of $197 billion. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who was last year's richest person, is a close second at $189 billion.

The 10th edition of the list released by Shanghai-based Hurun Report has LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault at third with $114 billion. At 72, the French businessman is the oldest person in the top five, which includes Bill Gates ($110 billion) at fourth and Mark Zuckerberg ($101 billion) at fifth.

Significant, however, is China's adding of 259 mega-rich to reach 1,058 dollar billionaires, becoming the first country to cross the 1,000 mark.

According to the report, 2020 saw 70 individuals in the U.S. reach $1 billion in wealth, but America's 696 lags far behind China, where over one-third of all known billionaires reside.

Asia now accounts for 51 percent of the world's billionaires, said Hurun Report's findings, while 24 percent live in North America. China and the U.S. alone have 54 percent of the world's billionaires.

India has the third most billionaires, while Germany and the U.K. round out the top five.

"Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, this year has seen the biggest wealth increase of the last decade," Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf said in an accompanying statement. "The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year."

As the pandemic drove up profits for those in healthcare, electric vehicles and e-commerce, billionaires amassed a combined $3.5 trillion—up 32 percent, the research showed.

In China—again home to the world's billionaire capital, Beijing—Zhong Shanshan ($85 billion), owner of bottled water company Nongfu Spring, toppled last year's richest man in the country, Jack Ma ($55 billion), who ran afoul of Chinese regulators.

At number seven, Zhong is the richest Chinese on the list and first in Asia, said Hurun Report.

"Elon Musk is the fourth person to take the title of the Richest Person in the World in the last decade, and at 49yrs is the youngest," Hoogewerf said. "Bill Gates was Number One four times, Jeff Bezos three times and Carlos Slim Helu twice."

He continued: "Don't bet against the billionaires. The first two months of the outbreak wiped out massive amounts of wealth, the second two months saw a V-shaped recovery and since June the new economy, led by digital, has boomed to record heights."

"EVs, e-commerce, blockchain and biotech have been the fastest growing industries of the past year," he notes in the report.

By Hurun Report's estimates, there is likely to be more than 7,500 billionaires in the world, "assuming that for every one we found, we have probably missed at least one if not more, particularly from the Gulf states."

The closely watched rich list revealed that billionaires made much more money than they gave away during the pandemic.

Hurun Report also publishes an annual China Rich List. Last October's release had Jack Ma on top, Tecent's Pony Ma at second and Zhong Shanshan third—a sequence that is expected to see big shifts given this week's findings.

Elon Musk Tops 2021 Rich List
File photo: SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. BRITTA PEDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images