NEW YORK ( Forbes) -- China's importance in the Forbes Billionaires List has soared in recent years as its economy has boomed. Last year, a record 115 mainland Chinese made the list, compared with hardly any a decade ago. Entrepreneurs involved in everything from Tibetan medicine to sports shoes to the Internet have joined an elite group populated by the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Their growing financial heft has put the hitherto unknown Chinese successes at the center of attention worldwide for the likes of immigration agents, charities and universities scrambling to admit their children and attract their cash. Collectively, they ranked No. 2 in the world on the Forbes Billionaires List in 2011, second only after the United States. Yet this year, the trend reversed. The number of mainland Chinese billionaires dropped by 20 to 95. Behind the decline: Some 35 billionaires from China that made the lift last year didn't make it this year. The arrival of fresh faces - some 16 - wasn't enough to offset the decline. Fortunes shrank as profits and stock valuations were hurt by the country's slower economic growth, brought on in part by a global slowdown and tight credit policies that to break real estate prices. Shanghai's main stock index plunged by nearly 20% in the 12 months that we surveyed for this year's list. Hong Kong, where many Chinese entrepreneurs also list, suffered a 9% drop in its main index.
By Russell Flannery , Forbes Staff
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