China’s Shenzhen metropolis sees fastest growth in millionaires globally

Shenzhen city skyline.

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China’s Shenzhen has recorded the fastest growth in millionaires over the past decade, and is poised to see a further influx in the coming years, according to a recent report.

Shenzhen recorded 140% growth in millionaire count, according to the report from New World Wealth and investment migration advisors Henley & Partners.

The growth is far more than in the other first-tier cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai whose millionaire population rose 90% and 84%, respectively.

In 2023 alone, Shenzhen saw a 10% growth in millionaires, while Beijing and Shanghai recorded a decline of around 5% amid an exodus of high-net-worth individuals from China. 

“On aggregate, millionaire numbers in China were down 3% in 2023, so Shenzhen significantly outperformed the overall country in 2023,”  Andrew Amoils, an analyst at New World Wealth, told CNBC.

The bulk of this surge in millionaires in Shenzhen is due to new business and organic income growth within the city, while about 30% of the growth is owed to influx from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, Amoils said.

Shenzhen, also known as China’s Silicon Valley, is expected to continue growing “very strongly” all through to 2040, compared with Beijing and Shanghai, which are likely to see moderate growth, Amoils added.

This comes against the backdrop of China’s stalling economy in the last few years, dragged down by an embattled property sector.

Shenzhen’s economy expanded 6% in 2023, surpassing growth in Beijing and Shanghai.

China’s Hangzhou city was second in terms of millionaire growth at 125%, while India’s Bengaluru and Austin city in the U.S. placed third and fourth, respectively; China’s Guangzhou ranked fifth, Amoils told CNBC.

Shenzhen’s progress

“In the last three decades, what made Shenzhen stand out from other Tier-1 cities has been its relatively light-touch governance and its welcoming attitude towards migrants,” said Erica Tay, director of macro research at Maybank.

Compared to Shanghai, which derives its economic might from state-owned enterprises, Shenzhen’s corporate landscape is dominated by private-sector entrepreneurs, she added.

Shenzhen, besides being a hotspot for startups is also the base city for global tech giants like Tencent, Huawei and BYD.

“The pro-business and pro-innovation regulatory environment has forged wave after wave of self-made fortunes [in Shenzhen],” said Tay.

Shenzhen’s ability to mint more millionaires will depend on whether it can maintain a conducive environment for its biggest resource: entrepreneurs.

Erica Tay

Director of macro research at Maybank

The metropolis was designated as one of China’s first special economic zones in 1980, which opened the city to foreign investment, technology and market-oriented reforms. 

Its proximity to Hong Kong, which is characteristically business friendly and efficient, also helped Shenzhen learn how to develop its economy, said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. 

“I do think Shenzhen is the most promising city in Mainland China in terms of economic potential,” he said.

With 50,300 resident millionaires, Shenzhen currently stands as the 27th wealthiest city in the world, and at its current growth rate, it should break into the ranks of the Top 10 by 2040.

“Looking ahead, Shenzhen’s ability to mint more millionaires will depend on whether it can maintain a conducive environment for its biggest resource: entrepreneurs,” said Maybank’s Tay.

New York tops the list as the richest city in the world, followed by the Bay Area of California, according to a recent compilation by Henley & Partners. Tokyo and Singapore placed third and fourth, respectively.