Zhong Shanshan is The New Asia’s Richest Man: Here’s How He Makes and Spends His Money

For several years, the likes of Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Indian business magnate Mukesh Ambani have held sway as the richest personalities on the Asian continent. There is however now a new king on the horizon and he is none other than Chinese business magnate, Zhong Shanshan.

Described as the man who turned water into gold, Shanshan seats atop a multibillion-dollar empire that comprises a thriving water and beverage company. He has also spread his tentacles to the pharmaceutical industry and is now worth a massive $89.9 billion. Such achievements are in themselves impressive but they are made all the more incredible by the poor background that Shanshan overcame on his way to the top. Another admirable thing about this particular billionaire is that he remains uncharacteristically humble, and maintains a low profile, despite his enormous wealth.

How Zhong Shanshan Went From School Dropout to Asia’s richest Businessman

Zhong Shanshan is now Asia’s richest businessman but he had to work hard to achieve that position. As the story goes, the young Shanshan dropped out of school during China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution and spent the next decade working a variety of odd jobs in the carpentry and construction sector. From there, he went on to qualify as a journalist in the early 80s and spent about five years as a reporter before switching gears to become an entrepreneur.

He is the Founder of China’s Biggest Bottled Water and Beverages Company

Zhong Shanshan
Image Source

Zhong Shanshan spent the late 80s and early 90s carrying out various business pursuits, such as selling mushrooms, nutritional supplements, and beverages, with moderate success. He then decided to establish his own bottled water company, Nongfu Spring, in September 1996. It was a good decision as China was, and still is, a country where most people don’t trust the tap water and avoid drinking it. They therefore easily spend money on bottled water and so, Nongfu Spring thrived.

The company grew steadily over the years and by 1999, they switched from bottling purified water to mineral water. That decision proved to be its breakthrough and Nongfu Spring has yet to look back. The company now employs thousands of people and has 16 factories in China as well as one in New Zealand. They sell about 15 billion bottles of water each year and are now the biggest bottled water company in China, controlling 26% of the bottled water sector.

Nongfu has now diversified its products to other beverages, such as orange juice, tea beverage, milk tea beverages, flavored soft drinks, yogurt, and even coffee products, generating an annual revenue that tops $3 billion each year. Shanshan is of course the biggest beneficiary of this as he is the single largest shareholder of the company with about 84.4%. It, therefore, means that he gets a lion’s share of the profits accruing from revenue.

Zhong Shanshan Has Also Founded Two Pharmaceutical Companies Namely Beijing Wantai and Hainan Yangshengtang

Even the most rookie businessman out there knows that one needs to diversify in order to survive. It is in this spirit that led Zhong Shanshan to diversify Nongfu from water to beverages. He did not stop there but has also gone on to establish two pharmaceutical companies known as Beijing Wantai and Hainan Yangshengtang Pharmaceuticals. The former has been involved in the manufacturing of covid-19 test kits and covid-19 nasal spray. Hainan, on the other hand, has been involved in the production of drugs including tablets, capsules, solutions, sprays, ointments, balms, etc. Both companies have thrived and Shanshan’s net worth has accordingly grown.

Nongfu Spring and Beijing Wantai Went Public in 2020 and Fetched Him about $70 Billion

Thanks to the profits from his three companies, Zhong Shanshan was able to garner a net worth of $7 billion over the course of the past three decades. His wealth then gained an additional $70 billion in 2020 alone thanks to the public listings of his companies.

Nongfu Springs went public in September 2020 and the IPO was well subscribed as investors saw it as a safe bet amid the turbulent economic climate of covid-19. The company’s shares have since witnessed an increase of about 155% since that debut IPO and this contributed to Shanshan’s net worth gaining $5.4 billion in one single day in January 2021.

Beijing Wantai Biological was also listed on the Shanghai Public Exchange in April 2020. Since then, its shares have witnessed a 2500% increase in value, and Shanshan, being the majority shareholder with a 75% stake, has gained billions of dollars as well.

Zhong Shanshan Has Been Described as a Lone Wolf Due To His Low Key and Solitary Lifestyle

Zhong Shanshan’s $89.9 billion net worth makes him the eighth richest person in the world as well as the richest person on the Asian continent. Given such a status, it means that he can afford to mingle with celebrities and statesmen alike. It also means that he can live the life of the rich and fabulous, complete with yachts, private jets, sports cars, and massive mansions, but this is not so.

The bottled water magnate is notorious for keeping a low profile and this has earned him the nickname of Lone Wolf in the Chinese media. He rarely hangs out with celebrities or politicians alike. He also avoids his fellow business magnates and has been known to say that he doesn’t like making friends with business people as business should be just business. He has also described himself as a solitary person who doesn’t care what people think or do.

Shanshan’s low-key nature also extends to his lifestyle. There are no private jets or Ferraris in sight. His place of abode is a nondescript apartment located in Xihu District, Hangzhou province. Such lifestyle is in stark contrast to that of the man that Shanshan dethroned, India’s Mukesh Ambani.

The Reliance founder is worth $77.9 billion and has no qualms spending it lavishly. In 2007, he purchased an Airbus private jet worth $60 million for his wife, Nita.

Mukesh Ambani and family Image Source

A few years down the line, he and his family moved into a 27-story home in Mumbai worth $1 billion. The house features a helipad, health club, six floors for car parking, and a snow room, etc. It is maintained by a staff of about 600. Such ostentatious living quarters caused a stir, as hundreds of millions of Indians live in poverty, but Ambani has remained unmoved. In 2018, he spent about $100 million on his daughter’s wedding which saw the likes of Beyoncé perform on the night.

Key Takeaways

  • Zhong Shanshan is now Asia’s richest man with a net worth of $89.9 billion
  • He accumulated the majority of his fortune from his bottled water and beverage company known as Nongfu Spring
  • He is also the founder of two pharmaceutical companies; Beijing Wantai and Hainan Yangshengtang.
  • Shanshan took his companies, Nongfu Spring and Beijing Wantai, public in 2020 and this added an additional $70 million to his net worth. It enabled him to dethrone India’s Mukesh Ambani to become the richest man on the Asian continent.
  • In stark contrast to Ambani’s flamboyance, Shanshan maintains a low-key lifestyle and shuns social circles. This has earned him the nickname of the Lone Wolf.


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