Geely chief Li Shufu can add a new distinction to his 2010 resume. Already a self-made billionaire worth $1.8 billion on our list this year, also the architect of his automaker’s purchase of Volvo from Ford, Li is now a member in good standing of China’s first list of the most compassionate, reports Southern Metropolis Daily (For an English report, see this in China Daily, which calls it a “soul-rich” list).
The list, released Wednesday in Beijing by China Social Sciences Press, honors people who have made contributions to the world without taking into account their net worth. The “soul-richest” person is Yuan Longping, already warranting demigod status in China as “The Father of Hybrid Rice.”
Other people who are rich in the soul include the writer and race car driver Han Han, one of China’s most popular bloggers, and the nation’s best-known crusading financial journalist, Caixin boss Hu Shuli, who left the magazine she helped found, Caijing, amid turmoil last year. I recounted a 2002 interview with Han on this Sinica podcast. Han and Hu are by no means cash-poor, but they have a long way to go to make our billionaires list.
Li, 47, was the son of a farmer who amassed his fortune beginning with a small graduation gift. Geely sold 330,000 cars in 2009, mostly in China, and now has set its sights on the U.S. and other overseas markets with its acquisition of Volvo.
Another philanthropic member of the soul-rich list, Chen Guangbiao, head of the manufacturing group Jiangsu Huangpu Investment, is not far from our billionaires list. A net worth of $660 million ranked him as the 141st richest person in China in 2009.