Who’s the richest man in China?

It’s a most unusual character, Alibaba‘s founder Jack Ma. Watch this short video with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang explaining how he became so rich:

He really defies the picture we have of what the richest man in China would be like, doesn’t he? But we have to give it to Jack Ma, he went from earning $12 a month to being worth $22 billion.

The new rich?

An interesting aspect of Jack Ma striking it rich is that it seems that nowadays quite a few unusual personalities are becoming mega wealthy because of inventing a video game, an innovative app or something similar within the IT field. Are the days when industrialists struck it rich over? Will future billionaires be of this new breed? Entrepreneurs of a new kind that defies the current stereotype?

Jack Ma is an unusual billionaire, isn't he?
Jack Ma is an unusual billionaire, isn’t he?

Did you know that Jack Ma is the richest man in China? Would you have imagined that a man like him would become so wealthy? Do you believe the people who strike it rich nowadays are different from those who made it in the past? Will we see more characters like Jack Ma striking it rich? 

Video: Bloomberg News

50 thoughts on “Who’s the richest man in China?

  1. I was aware of Alibaba and Jack Ma, but didn't really know about his eccentricities until seeing this post. I think that future billionaires will continue to be drawn from the leading-edge technologies of the day – today it's about technology, a hundred years ago it was transport (railways, motor vehicles) and the mass manufacturing this enabled and encouraged.

    It's those individuals that introduce new ways of doing things on a large scale, in essence. And, of course, the Internet enables anyway to reach a global audience…

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

  2. I have watched Aliababa grow over the years. I knew it was a matter of time before Jack Ma became the recognizable billionaire he is. Look how well his stock did when the offering was at $48.00 and now is $97.91. Of course he made his money at the initial offering. Jack Ma is now the new norm. The baby boomers types are retiring and it is time for the new generation of billionaires to be a little different.
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  3. I like the Chinese style of being rich. Just this morning I saw on BBC's ceoguru program another rich Chinese businessman who believes in leaving his management team to run the business with the philosophy of moderate and sustainable growth while he pursues his passions.

  4. He’s an interesting character but the tech field is producing more and more of the truly wealthy. I was amazed to find one of Canada’s biggest banks made a fraction of what FB made. With so much of the world’s population it’s not surprising to see tech companies doing well in China. China definitely seems to be finding a way for such entrepreneurs to thrive while still maintaining state control.

  5. I’d never heard of Jack Ma or Alibaba until I read this post! What an unusual character. But he does it so well and it serves him. He’s a true visionary and following his vision has paid off for him. We can all be inspired by that. He’s certainly a man who doesn’t let fear of failure stop him. Thanks Catarina! Your world is an interesting place. 🙂

  6. I hadn’t heard of Jack Ma or Alibabi until a few weeks ago, but I think it’s good to see some less-stuffy types succeeding in business. It only makes sense given the types of shifts taking place in the world.

  7. His achievements aren’t surprising if you examine his personality traits. He doesn’t give up, stays on top of trends, he’s innovative, knows what has to be done and does it, not schedule driven, he values team input and strives to keep his life in balance. Trying to understand his success based on appearance is questionable ; remember looks can be deceiving. : )

  8. This guy is something else, especially for a business owner in China. His employees made tons of money from the company too. He had paid them in shares too. Maybe true capitalism with a heart is taking over there finally.

  9. I think there has always been eccentric sort of characters who struck it rich and people who you wouldn't expect to be in the position that they put themselves in. When you think of industrialists you think more of conventional businessmen who grow a business progressively. But Ma, like some other tech success stories, is more an idea guy. If you are looking for historical comparisons it is more like Marconi or Ford or Edison, rather than Rockefeller or Morgan. I think both types will continue to exist.

  10. I did know that Jack Ma is the richest man in China. I had seen his interview on 60 Minutes and yes, he is quite eccentric. But this is the type of people that are striking it rich nowadays – those eccentric, out of the box thinking characters in the IT world like Jack Ma. Does it surprise me? Not any more. I think this is what the future holds.
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  11. He was just on 60 minutes a few weeks ago. I remember something he said which is distinctly something I heard the Federal Express CEO (years and years ago) say: "We take care of our employees first, this has them take care of our customers, and then the profits take care of themselves." Wow. Putting people first on all concepts. How refreshing isn't it Catarina?

  12. I absolutely do believe that the people making new fortunes now are different than a generation or two ago! It seems to take some serious out-of-the-box thinking to make that happen these days. Such an interesting video!

    1. It's a new breed of billionaires, isn't it Meredith. They are mainly in the it sector so isn't it more a question of being able to come up with technical products that are innovativ? If we are not technical that's almost impossible no matter how much we think out-of-the-box

  13. Yes I know about him and learned about Alibaba many times. He is really a different man and like all he has worked hard over the time. I think such type will be normal in IT sector, I agree with you about that.
    But sometimes his dresses and singing make Jack Ma a different personality. He had seen future many years before as some times he tells that he knew that internet will change China.

  14. This is the first I’ve heard of Jack Ma and Alibaba – hard to believe that, so I have no idea of his eccentricity.. Obviously the picture shows one side. But it sure made me wonder about a few things: how did someone making $12.00 a month manage to borrow $60,000.00 and since China is communist, how can someone be worth $22B while others are working for $12./month or less.
    Just wondering.

    1. He was determined and didn't give up, Lenie. When it comes to making money China is no longer communist and now it's actually the largest economy in the world. A successful Chinese entrepreneur can hence borrow money not only in China but all over the world.

  15. I think the IT industry enables more unusual people to become famous and successful. Being unusual in itself is not making them successful, it’s how they use that quality that brings success.

  16. People who build companies like Jack Ma, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc., are different from you and me. They have almost undefinable special qualities that separate them from other mere mortals. They have an overwhelming vision to build something new and big. Who can explain it?
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  17. Loved reading over the and watching the video, its fascinating and factual and guess is an eye opener for entrepreneurs and in a way us bloggers alike, rejection is part of the battle.

  18. I saw Jack Ma’s interview on 60 Minutes a while ago. I like very much his philosophy and even though he may be categorized as eccentric I think that is only because he is rich. The corporate world needs more like him.

      1. What I am saying is that being eccentric is a term most often used for those that are rich. He may have been eccentric before but was most likely referred to using a different state of mental health.
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        1. Believe me, Tim, far from all mega rich are eccentric. If the term is often used it's by people who don't know them. If one mega rich person is eccentric it doesn't make all billionaires eccentric:-)

          1. I am not saying that by any stretch of the imagination. I am simply saying that the term eccentric is most often reserved for a person who is rich or famous as opposed to a person of normal financial means.
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  19. I've been watching this guy since he "made it" and admit to being a bit gob-smacked by the whole eccentricity thing. I have read that he was way out there prior to hitting it big. But that's sort of the way it goes in the tech field, yes? Bill Gates was more traditional…don't see him much anymore except for his philanthropy. I think we may be looking at the new normal…at least in the tech industry:)

  20. He’s different, all right. Alibaba is quite an accomplishment. He seems to have fun except for worrying about regrets for the rest of his life if the company doesn’t overshadow Microsoft. Maybe he’s copied the best parts of Microsoft and Apple. Anyway, he’s quite a character, it would seem. Loves the stage.

  21. Never sure if eccentrics get rich because of their outside of the box thinking or if getting very rich allows you the freedom to bring out your eccentricities. While you don't get many CEOs willing to dress up and sing, I think Jack Ma seems pretty normal compared to some others. 🙂
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    1. From what I understand he started being eccentric before he got, rich. But in general I agree with you. Jack Ma really had to get through a lot of rejection. When McDonald's was recruiting for the first time in China 24 people applied. One was rejected – Jack Ma.

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