China’s richest man on Sunday rejected criticism that the rich have done little to help the country’s millions of poor and said hard work was the key to lifting themselves out of poverty. China has struggled to spread its wealth evenly among its 1.3 billion-strong population and the widening wealth gap is at the top of the agenda of the country’s annual parliamentary session which opened on Saturday.
“The most important thing we can do is teach them (poor people) how to help themselves and help them get rich through hard work,” Zong Qinghou, the founder of China’s largest soft drinks maker Wahaha, told a news conference. Zong, who leapt 11 places to top the Hurun Rich List in 2010 with a fortune of $12 billion, is one of nearly 3,000 delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC) meeting in Beijing.
“In the 30 years since reform and opening up, people’s living standards have increased greatly but our goal is to make them even better,” the beverage tycoon told reporters. Over the next five years “we will attach even more importance to (income) distribution and further reduce the wealth gap.”