Wang Jianlin
Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda commercial properties Reuters

The world's most populated country China, now also has the most number of billionaires at 596 surpassing the US, which has 537 billionaires, according to the Hurun Global Rich List. This is the first time that China has overtaken the US in the ranking. The combined total wealth of these billionaires hit $2.1tn, (£1.3tn) more than the GDP of many countries like India and Russia.

"Despite the slowdown in the economy, China's richest have defied gravity, recording their best year ever, and creating more wealth than any country has ever done before in a year," said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher.

The US, however, continued to dominate the list of wealthiest people making up seven of the top 10 list that does not have a single Chinese. With 1.4 billion people, China's 596 billionaires made up just 0.00072% of its overall population in comparison to the US, which has a far higher number of billionaires per capita at 0.05% of the overall population.

The Hurun Report goes on to say that if 119 billionaires from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau are added to China's count, Greater China would have a total of 715 billionaires. The list reflects the growing power shift in the Chinese economy, with IT-related billionaires growing by 43% this year. Impressively, "The China Rich List" also has the world's highest percentage of self-made entrepreneurs with 95% on the list being self-made, and only 5% inheriting their wealth.

Chinese billionaires Wang Jianlin, 61, of the Dalian Wanda Group, a conglomerate with investments in cinema chains and hotels has topped the list after a 52% rise in his fortune to $34.4bn, mainly on the back of a ten-fold increase in his newly-listed cinema chain. Wanda overtook Jack Ma of Alibaba, 51, for the top spot.

Unaccounted wealth

The report only takes into account official statistics to rank China's billionaire population at 596 but experts warn that the real figure could be much higher.

Hoogewerf told CNN in an interview that many of the country's billionaires go to great efforts to conceal their wealth from authorities and thus Hurun was only able to identify roughly half the country's billionaires, while almost 15% of China's wealth is hidden from the public.

As for other countries, Russia was the biggest loser in terms of billionaires - dropping down from 111 to 88 and securing the fifth place on the list. India was pushed into third place with 97 billionaires while Germany stood fourth.