Yao Tops Forbes List Again

For the second year, Forbes has compiled a Chinese version of its prestigious annual Celebrity 100 List. The local list surveyed annual income and media coverage of personalities in film, sports, media, music and publishing. To qualify candidates should be born and raised on the Chinese mainland, excluding celebrities from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. While the list is often seen as a who’s who in the glamorous world of the rich and famous, Forbes China is quick to point out that as a business magazine, while the focus is on celebrities, they are more concerned about business opportunities connected to the celebrity.

There were no surprises at Yao Ming topping the list for the second consecutive year, raking in a cool 150 million yuan ($18.1 million) in 2004. As an international sports icon, Yao featured in advertisements for Apple Computer in the past year and currently has a multimillion-dollar endorsement contract with Reebok International.

Actress Zhang Ziyi, an Academy Award presenter this year, stayed steady in second place with an income of 35 million yuan ($4.2 million).

Athletes propelled onto the list after their strong showing in last summer’s Olympic Games in Greece were headed by Liu Xiang, who won China’s groundbreaking gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles, and leapt from last year’s 90th place to third in this year’s standings with an annual income of 23 million yuan ($2.78 million). Other athletes glorified for their Olympic successes include diving princess Guo Jingjing (17th), table tennis champion Zhang Yining (59th), women’s tennis doubles gold medallists Sun Tiantian and Li Ting (62nd) and 100-meter breaststroke champion Luo Xuejuan (65th), who are all first timers on the list.

In a country with an ancient tradition that personal wealth is not to be revealed, it is understandable that celebrities generally react negatively once their bank balances become public knowledge. Most of them complained that their incomes were exaggerated, to which Forbes China responded that the statistics in its list was stars’ pre-tax income, which the company believes could most accurately reflect the commercial value they represent. Furthermore, Forbes China stressed that its data was from different sources, such as celebrities’ agents, performing agencies and advertisement agencies. Many celebrities said they took the list with a pinch of salt, some even seeing it as a source of amusement.

“Seven of the top 10 from this year were repeats from last year, which indicates that there is a clear and stable pecking order at the top end of China’s entertainment business right now. Only Yao [Ming] and Zhang [Ziyi] have made a mark overseas though and it will be interesting in the next year to see how the others try to follow in their path.”

Bobby Hao Compiler of Forbes China’s Celebrity List

“I didn’t even know such a list existed. I won’t spend any time worrying about it, there are far more important things for me to be doing.”

Yao Ming

“China has too few celebrities rather than too many; China’s celebrity effect is too weak rather than too powerful.”

Zhou Peng Editor in Chief of Chinese edition of Forbes magazine

“This list does nothing more than offer people entertainment.”

Hai Yan A novelist ranking 100th on the Celebrity List