Hoaxes & Rumors

Does China’s Richest Man Live on $20 a Day?

Does China’s Richest Man Live on $20 a Day?

It is claimed that China’s richest man accepts only a paltry salary and eats the same meals as his workers. Today we’ll take a closer look at this claim.

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The assertion is dubious.

A popular post online makes the following claim:

China’s richest man with a worth of US $21.8 Billion, Zong Qinghou, eats the same meals as his workers and lives on only $20 a day!

While it’s true that Zong Qinghou was considered China’s richest man when this claim first circulated in 2012 – and he claimed a minimal salary of around $4700 per year – it has been reported that he receives “100,000 euros worth of annual allowances and a bonus worth 1 percent of the annual profit of the joint ventures.” This equals 70 million Chinese yuan, or $11.4 million – or about $31,000 per day. A 2012 Bloomberg article states that he claims to spend just $20 a day, which is where this rumor apparently originated.

And just how much of this alleged $20 goes into this well-known chain smoker’s cigarette habit?

Tax Evasion

Qinghou has been accused of tax evasion since 2008, and has paid over 200 million yuan ($32 million in US dollars) in back taxes. Investigators believe that he is hiding “a huge income both at home and overseas.”

Green Card Scandal

Further tainting Zong Qinghou’s reputation were revelations that he held a U.S. green card, which he relinquished in the wake of new regulations that would have required him to report and pay taxes in the United States. Having been twice elected to the People’s Congress, revelation of his green card outraged citizens who felt they were being represented by an “American.”

He is currently ranked as China’s richest man, and the 23rd richest in the world, with a personal wealth of around $20 billion.

China’s Richest Man

In 2014, the title of China’s Richest Man was awarded to 49-year old Jack Ma of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. with a worth over $20 billion. As of late 2014 Zong Qinhou was listed as the 6th richest man in China.

Bottom Line

Claims that  Zong Qinghou lives on $20 a day are doubtful. What is more likely is that he boasted of such meager pay in order to balance his checkbook in the public eye.

Updated February 4, 2015

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