Rupert Hoogewerf sees his wealth list as “like the tip of an iceberg – there is a lot more underneath than you can see on the surface.”
Mr Hoogewerf freely admits that listing only published assets means he misses at least half of the truly wealthy in a country where it is difficult to track any assets that are not held in land or publicly listed companies.
Perhaps that is the reason why his presence has been tolerated for so long in a country not known for its openness about wealth or anything else.
When he first set up Hurun, he told me, he received a discreet visit from a man with no business card who just said: “We know what you are doing. It seems quite good.”
But although the Party might find his list quite useful, those who are included in it are often not so relaxed.
“There is a nickname for the rich list. It’s called the death list,” Mr Hoogewerf says in our interview, “…or in Chinese it is actually known as the ‘fat pig killing list’. The implication is that as the Chinese get to be well known, they get ready to be taken down.”
Mr Hoogewerf quotes statistics to show this is a false impression, and that those on the list are no more likely to be arrested than any other businessmen in a society where incurring the Party’s displeasure can mean a quick end to a promising business career.
But other researchers disagree.
One paper from three Chinese academics says that the proportion of entrepreneurs that are charged, investigated or arrested rises from 7% for unlisted to 17% on Hurun listing.
Mr Hoogewerf strongly disputes this, saying the proportion of listees arrested is no more than 1%.
The China Weekly Hangout talked earlier this month about the legacy of the ten years Hu/Wen legacy. Janet Carmosky, Greg Anderson and Fons Tuinstra participated.
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