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Chinese tech billionaires on the rise despite slowdown in economy -

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NICK GRIMM: China's economy might be slowing down, but the number of billionaires being created there is on the rise.

According to a recent tally, the total number of US-dollar billionaires surpassed the United States for the first time this year.

And though some industries like construction are slowing down, China's tech industry is more than making up for them in creating serious wealth.

China correspondent Bill Birtles reports.

BILL BIRTLES: In a country that has got rich quick, the obsession with the super-wealthy is intense.

And nowhere have people become wealthy more quickly than in China's booming tech industry.

(Sound of journalists assembling and talking with each other)

At a Beijing hotel, journalists gather to hear the latest edition of China's rich list.

And while the country's richest man, Wang Jianlin, made his money in traditional bricks and mortar, the country's IT chiefs are quickly catching up.

At the top of them is Jack Ma, the 51-year-old founder of China's equivalent of Ebay, Alibaba.

Earlier this year he told the World Economic Forum his rags-to-riches story.

JACK MA: You know, for three years I tried to fill in the universities. So I applied jobs 30 times: got rejected. I ran to even the KFC. When KFC came to China...

(Audience laughs)

JACK MA:... twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three people: accepted. I was the only one who got...

(Audience laughs)

BILL BIRTLES: And just this past week, during Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit to the UK, Mr Ma was appointed a special business advisor to British prime minister David Cameron.

Jack Ma has made his $29 billion fortune in online commerce and he was China's richest man until a recent fall in the stock price bumped him from the top spot.

But in China's rapidly developing tech industry, a new generation of IT moguls are making their presence felt.

Rupert Hoogewerf compiles the Hurun rich list, China's equivalent of the Forbes rich list.

RUPERT HOOGEWERF: I think there have been various generations of the tech entrepreneurs. The first generation really set up in the late 90s. And they're the likes today of Alibaba and Baidu and Tencent. They're sort of set up in that period and they got a lot of the... they've sort of innovated over the years.

Now you've got the ones who've started in the post-2010s who are basically watching very closely what's going on in Silicon Valley.

BILL BIRTLES: One of the biggest factors driving China's tech industry is protection from foreign competition.

For a brief period, Facebook, Google and YouTube were all accessible here but over the past five or six years the government has moved to block them all, cutting off Chinese users from these global social networks.

The website blocks hasn't deterred all of the big US companies, though.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly trying to find a way back in. Last year he even showed off his Chinese language skills during a visit to Beijing.

(Sound of Mark Zuckerberg addressing audience in Mandarin. Audience laughs and applauds)

BILL BIRTLES: But getting Facebook back online here will be even more difficult than learning the notoriously hard language.

This is Bill Birtles in Beijing, reporting for Saturday AM.