March 12th, 2012
03:04 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) - If you look at China’s annual National People’s Congress, now in session, you might think this country is one of the richest in the world.

The NPC's 75 richest legislators - from a total of 3,000 - had a net worth of more than $90 billion in 2011. To put that in perspective, that’s more than half of Greece’s latest bailout of some $170 billion.

Zong Qinghou is the NPC’s richest member and China’s second-richest man, with a net worth of nearly $10.8 billion in cash and assets. If you’ve been to China, you’ve likely eaten or drunk something his company, Wahaha Group, manufactures.

The firm’s red-and-white distilled water bottles are ubiquitous - sold on the grounds of the Forbidden City in Beijing to the altitudes of the Chinese Himalayas in Tibet.

Along with food and drink, the five richest NPC legislators have shown that China’s automobile and real estate industries are the sectors in which to make billions.

For more perspective on their wealth, compare NPC’s six dozen richest members to U.S. politicians. This group earned more than the net worth of the six hundred top politicians and lawmakers of the United States.

That includes President Barack Obama, his Cabinet, the 535 members of Congress, along with nine members of the Supreme Court. Their average declared net worth in 2010 was just $4.8 billion - a pittance compared to the NPC’s $90 billion.

Even the richest person in the U.S. Congress looks a modest earner compared with the NPC's wealth. Representative Darrell Issa of California has a maximum net worth estimated at $700 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. If he were in China’s NPC, his ranking would fall forty notches.

The NPC is not the only major political meet-up happening in Beijing right now. The CPPCC - the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference - is also in full swing. The 70-odd richest legislators in this government advisory body, similar to the NPC, had a net worth of more than $100 billion in 2011.

And they’re apparently not afraid to flaunt the bling they can buy with those riches.

One legislator from an ethnic minority, often poorer than their Han Chinese counterparts, clutched an $800 Burberry handbag on the way to a CPPCC meeting this week. The Chairman of Evergrande, one of China’s biggest property companies, sported a $950 black Hermes belt - with a golden H. And another lady legislator cradled a Marc Jacobs bag on the way to this week’s work. Retail price? $10,000.

The annual per capita income for a Chinese citizen stands at about $2,400.

With images like those - which have gone viral on the web - many critics are wondering just how representative the "people’s" congress is of the people.

The answer? Perhaps not so much.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. art

    Wow! Rich and poor in a communism? I thought this was against communist principles. What brand of communism are they practicing? Must be closet capitalism after all.

    March 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  2. Jeannette

    Wow, 75 out of 3000 in the Chinese legislature are obscenely rich. We can probably find 2.5% of the House and Senate are also obscenely rich. Some of them might even have thousand dollar shoes, and custom made suits too!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  3. John

    Same with Washington, all the top hedge fun manager goes to Washington and the congress as these business leaders for advice all the time. I see no different.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  4. Frank La

    Wow – I should wonder where the source of money they got ? According to Marxism and Leninism , the definition of Communism is a movement to create a CLASSLESS – MONEYLESS- PROLETARIAN . Originally it was identified as those people who had NO WEALTH other than any classes. Bravo – You would be seeing the end of Capitalism .

    March 12, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  5. JT

    China has changed since Deng Xiao Peng stated, "to get rich is glorious"...and also " i don't care what color of the cat is as long as it caches the mice."...

    March 13, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  6. jakson

    See the elephant is dying and die a very sad situation

    March 13, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  7. jakson

    The most powerful and Meals Desserts 2012

    March 13, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  8. kcm367

    I just want to be rich. This is my only goal.

    March 13, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  9. pete

    Just goes to show that the CCP is corrupt from the bottom to the top. No elected officials. No accountability to anybody. The number one value. "I just want to be rich." They don't care who they hurt or what they do to become rich. Want China to rule the world? I don't think so.

    March 13, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  10. EJ

    Money in chinese culture is God. Forbes doesn't even know how many millionaires/billionaires there are in China. Most of the world money is there right now so there's no communism that favors the poor. That kind of communism disappeared with Russia and Romania. Chinese communism is the one that survived and proved to the world that it works. Western capitalism is beaten these days.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  11. Pete

    The Chinese go with whatever works and call it Communism.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:24 am |
  12. Aeta

    This article is so dumb. It sounds like a dumb Filipino wrote it. It's natural to expect 2.5% of the NPC to be rich. China's top leaders are engineers, which is unique around the world. Unlike other countries who elect rich businessmen, lawyers, movie stars, etc. as their top leaders, China elects engineers or scientists.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:34 am |
  13. Aeta

    In China, the people elect their lower representatives, who elect the higher representatives. At each higher level, their elected peers elect higher leaders because they already know everything about those people, unlike regular folk who can be fooled easily by false election advertising and deception, which is common in the US, or India where people don't really know their candidates well and end up having goons for leaders.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  14. Aeta

    The one blowing up the Middle East for her oil is the United States. That's the rich goon that the world is concerned about.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:42 am |
  15. M&M

    what people can do in China? I think one word can make you get money in there as the rich group." don't care anything, whatever is right or wrong, then you can get chance to be rich.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  16. Aeta

    The rich Chinese are helping Europe by buying European goods. If they didn't buy those goods, how can you help the Europeans?

    March 13, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  17. Cleto

    I'd rather be rich than handsome...

    March 13, 2012 at 3:32 am |
  18. opAZ

    what communism? did you get that right about China being a commie state?

    March 13, 2012 at 3:42 am |
  19. Richie BJ

    Chinese have no faith,besides "money"。

    March 13, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  20. Neil Conway

    It looks like the Chinese government sponsored folks have discovered this article very quickly. That job does exist. What a bunch of rubbish. Money for the best connected few is truly the God in China. The word meritocracy is probably blocked online in the PRC.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  21. SinoPhobe

    China Sucks

    March 14, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  22. Michael Htun Lynn

    Do not say China to back off from anywhere! They will more intruding to the Core and reap all assets from the other world!
    Nobody can stop them even U.S ! Just watch quietly and do not go and touch the Dragon's Tail !!!
    Be aware that with high vigilant and Stand By mode !!!

    March 18, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  23. adi

    1. election is a joke in china
    2. most of the riches are hated by ppl because of their coruption, they are over the law which is made by them
    3. we are hoping a cleaner society even more than to be richer

    March 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
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