China's Wu Yajun Tops List of World's Richest Women

A former journalist who founded a property investment firm remains both the world’s richest woman and the world’s richest self-made businesswoman, according to China-based Hurun Research Institute.

Wu Yajun, 48, has topped the Hurun 2012 Global Rich Women List and the Global Self-Made Rich Women List for the second straight year despite a 10% drop in the value of her assets to 38 billion yuan ($6.1 billion).

Wu was born into a middle-class family in Chongqing. She graduated in 1984 from Northwestern Polytechnical University in Shaanxi province and began working as a newspaper journalist. As she worked her way up to editor, she built up contacts in government and business that proved helpful when she launched her Chongqing Zhongjianke Real Estate in 1994. The company was later renamed Chongqing Longfor Properties.

As Longfor’s CEO Wu has kept an extremely low profile by strictly rejecting TV appearances, interviews and autographs. When she did grant an interview to state-run China Daily newspaper in 2010, she only said,“Well I have nothing to talk about. I am just a person focusing on my own business.”

Longfor’s developments in numerous Chinese cities include mid-level homes as well as high-end apartments and villas. Wu has dealt with intense competition by paying rigorous attention to the smallest details of her residential property developments.

Wu is currently a representative of the National People’s Congress, a vice president of the Chongqing Municipal Federation of Industry and Commerce and vice president of Chongqing’s Real Estate Chamber of Commerce.

Just below Wu on the list of self-made rich women is Chang Laiwa of FuWah International Group with estimated net worth of 34 billion yuan ($5.4 billion), up 3% over 2011.

She is followed by Spain’s Rosalia Mera with 28 billion yuan ($4.5 billion), down 3.4%.

“The numbers are overwhelming,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report.“Chinese women in business, are like the Chinese table tennis team, at the moment, unbeatable.”

Chinese women make up 11 of the 22 women on the Hurun rich self-made businesswomen list. They also dominate Hurun’s global rich women list. The top three on that list are Wu, Chang, and Yang Huiyan, who inherited 33 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) from her father. All three are in the real estate industry.