The Shanghai Stock Exchange may have lost two-thirds of its value last year but not everyone was a loser, according to a new report on high-net-worth mainland investors.
By the end of this year there will be more than 320,000 investors on the mainland with more than 10 million yuan (HK$11.35 million) of capital to speculate with, a report produced by the China Merchant Bank and global business consulting firm Bain & Company predicts.
The estimate represents an increase of 6 per cent from the end of last year, with the group expected to have more than 9 trillion yuan between them - 7 per cent more than at the end of last year.
The figures are a stark contrast to events at the other end of the social ladder, with dramatic rises in unemployment and wage cuts reported among the lowest paid as the full impact of the global slowdown begins to be felt by the mainland economy.
They also underline the widening wealth gap, highlighted in a recent UN report on development.
The China Institute for Reform and Development warned that the growing disparity threatened to undermine progress made in improving welfare and living standards.
"Development gaps have emerged and widened sharply between urban and rural areas, between the prosperous coastal regions in the east and the poorer interior regions of central and western China, between men and women and between registered urban residents and urban migrants," said Khalid Malik, the UN Development Programme's resident representative in China, as he delivered the report in November.
Per capita annual earnings in rural areas were just 4,761 yuan last year.
The bank's prediction follows a roller-coaster year for the economy.
The government admits at least 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs, out of a floating workforce of 130 million across the mainland.
An estimated 1.2 million university graduates from last year have still to find jobs, and competition will increase when 6.1 million more complete their degrees this summer.
Figures from February show mainland exports were down 25.7 per cent on the same period last year, with imports down by 24.1 per cent.
The Shanghai Composite Index ended last year as the worst performing market in the region and second worst worldwide, having fallen from 5,272 points in January to close on just 1,820 points on December 31. By yesterday, the market had clawed its way back up to 2,373 points.
However, the bank's analysis says there were still more than 300,000 high-end investors - categorised by people whose main source of income is from their investments - with portfolios valued at more than 10 million yuan at the end of last year.
Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Zhejiang and Jiangsu accounted for the lion's share of the rich, the report said, with each region boasting more than 20,000 of those investors.
The highest number was in Guangzhou with 46,000 - almost 15 per cent of the national total.
The report also identified a high number of super-rich investors, with a national total of nearly 10,000 having more than 100 million yuan to play with. The elite group's investments totalled 1.4 trillion yuan.