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Ordos: A Land of Modest Millionaires

By Song Fuli (宋馥李)
Issue 629, July 22, 2013
Society, Page 12
Translated by Zhu Mengqing
Original article: [Chinese]

Over the past decade, thousands of people in Ordos (鄂尔多斯), Inner Mongolia have become millionaires. But most aren't too anxious to show off that newfound wealth.

Ordos is thought to contain as much as one-sixth of China's coal reserves. Because it lies in an ethnic minority region, authorities allowed loose restrictions on raising capital in the city, which facilitated the rapid emergence of private coal entrepreneurs. Even farmers and herdsmen who had their land requisitioned used their compensation to start their own small coal mining operations.

After that first class of millionaires emerged, they became their own economic engine and made millionaires out of those bringing industries catering to them; like hotels, luxury cars and real estate. It's now estimated the number of millionaires in the city has surpassed 7,000.

After a high-ranking Inner Mongolia provincial official said the per capita GDP of Ordos would surpass that of Hong Kong, the city started making headlines as the place that had "made a great fortune overnight." For many though, this media attention wasn't welcome.

In order to raise funds, financers in Ordos generally try to demonstrate their success by driving luxury cars, mingling at high-end clubs and using other status-enhancing goods. But for other types of millionaires – especially those in the coal industry - public scrutiny of the city's rapid wealth accumulation presented unwanted pressure.

Many "modest millionaires" in Ordos keep a very low profile in order to avoid this scrutiny. They'll rarely attend public events or make a fuss about their charitable donations.

Of all the companies in the city, only four are publicly listed. Most would rather raise capital privately than deal with the added transparency and scrutiny going public would entail.


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