China 500 2021

The annual report on the most valuable and strongest Chinese brands

Brand Finance China 500 2021

Brand Finance Press Release – For Immediate Release

China’s Top 500 Brands Show Resilience as Total Brand Value Stands at Nearly $2 Trillion

  • Chinese brands show resilience in face of international crisis – total value of Brand Finance China 500 ranking remains stable – standing at US$1.94 trillion in 2021
  • With 134 brands represented in ranking, Greater Bay Area is home to more top brands than any other region in China
  • Banking sector dominates with 85 brands accounting for 22% of total brand value in ranking, with ICBC once again crowned China’s most valuable brand
  • Leading fight against health emergency, pharma sector sees greatest brand value increase, up staggering 123%
  • Retail and media sectors also record impressive surge as consumer habits shift online, up 54% and 33% respectively
  • Perseverance of brands in investment and infrastructure development pays off – solid performances across real estate and engineering & construction sectors
  • WeChat is nation’s and world’s strongest brand with top score of 95.4 out of 100 and AAA+ brand strength rating

Shenzhen and London, 11th May 2021: Chinese brands have showcased incredible resilience to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest report by Brand Finance – the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy.

The total brand value captured in the Brand Finance China 500 ranking of the country’s top 500 most valuable brands has remained stable year on year and now stands at US$1.94 trillion. Brands at the forefront of the nation’s successful response to the health emergency and those powering the transition of consumption online – across the pharma, retail, and media sectors – have performed particularly well and recorded the highest brand value increases, while the banking and tech sectors still dominate in terms of the combined value and number of brands contributed to the top 500 ranking.

The latest iteration of the annual study by the London-based brand valuation consultancy is being unveiled at the opening ceremony of the Shenzhen Brand Week today, following the National Brand Day celebrated in China on 10th May each year.

We have been tracking the impressive development of Chinese brands for over a decade and I am honoured that Brand Finance has yet again been invited to launch our study into China’s 500 most valuable and strongest brands at the Shenzhen Brand Week.

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance

With 134 brands represented in the Brand Finance China 500 ranking, the Greater Bay Area is home to more of the nation’s top brands than any other region in China, while Shenzhen in particular is known nationally and globally as a vibrant tech hub. The tech sector is represented by 86 brands in the top 500 ranking – more than any other industry, with hundreds other brands powered by technological innovation.

Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area are the perfect location for a discussion about Chinese brands and their development. Shenzhen-based WeChat is now the world’s strongest brand, ahead of Ferrari and Coca-Cola. Tencent, Huawei, and Ping An – all from Shenzhen – feature among the nation’s top 10 most valuable brands. The city is developing fast and its brands are its best ambassadors.

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance

ICBC reigns supreme

Banking continues to be the nation’s most valuable sector by a considerable margin, with its 85 brands featuring in the Brand Finance China 500 2021 ranking accounting for 22% of the total brand value. Chinese banks have been largely impervious to the issues plaguing their counterparts elsewhere in the world, which is largely attributable to the banking sector’s role in China’s timely and effective response to COVID-19, which included regulatory policy adjustments for asset management, wealth management, and inter-banking, as well as increased investment into digitalisation.

Despite a 10% drop in brand value to US$72.8 billion, ICBC remains China’s most valuable brand. As the nation’s biggest bank, ICBC continues to fare well with consumers, regardless of the bank’s depreciating brand value due to the pandemic’s negative impact on its investment portfolio return. Nonetheless, the brand maintains a healthy lead ahead of China Construction Bank (down 5% to US$59.6 billion) and Agricultural Bank of China (down 3% to US$53.1 billion), which come in at 3rd and 9th places in the ranking, respectively.

Two further banks feature in the top 25: Bank of China (down 4% to US$48.7 billion) and China Merchants Bank (down 8% to US$21.0 billion).

Chinese banks have scored extremely well in Brand Finance’s Global Brand Equity Monitor research this year, ranking highly for attributes such as recommendation. This is undoubtedly an effect of China’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has allowed its economy to continue functioning relatively unscathed, allowing space for banks to grow further.

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance

Pharma jumps 123%

The pharma sector has recorded the greatest cumulative brand value growth in the ranking, up a staggering of 123% year-on-year, with the sector’s brands at the forefront of the nation’s successful response to the health emergency. This impressive jump has been bolstered by solid performances across the board, as well as from the eight new brands that have entered the ranking this year, with Huadong Medicine (brand value US$451 million) the highest new entrant in 360th spot. 

Leading the way as the sector’s most valuable brand is Sinopharm, which has recorded a 58% brand value increase to US$3.2 billion, simultaneously jumping 35 spots to 108th position. Sinopharm is making major strides in the global race to produce COVID-19 vaccinations and has since developed a vaccine with a high efficacy rate, which has already been distributed to millions worldwide.

Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals Corporation (up 74% to US$1.5 billion) and SPH (up 50% to US$1.4 billion) are the second and third most valuable pharma brands, respectively.

Changing purchasing habits propel growth across retail

The retail sector – and more specifically e-commerce – is one of the few sectors that has truly benefitted from the pandemic, with brands experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand as consumers turned online following store closures. Over Q2 and Q3 of 2020, e-commerce platforms experienced the highest revenue growth since 2016. Retail is the second most valuable sector - with 17 brands featuring and accounting for 10% of the total brand value - and also the second fastest growing sector, recording a cumulative brand value growth of 54%.

The nation’s top four e-commerce brands – Taobao, Tmall, and – have all seen significant brand value growth. Taobao (brand value US$53.3 billion) and Tmall (brand value US$49.2 billion) have entered the top 10 for the first time following 44% and 60% brand value increases, respectively.’s brand value has been boosted by an eyewatering 108% to US$39.2 billion, simultaneously propelling the brand from 22nd to 13th – a result of a huge spike in demand. The story is similar for, which has enjoyed an 82% brand value increase to US$23.5 billion, following a 30% rise in its annual shopper count – its fastest pace in two years.

Although smaller than the big four of Chinese e-commerce, Pinduoduo is the nation’s fastest growing brand, up 148% to US$6.3 billion and jumping 60 places in the ranking to 63rd. Founded only six years ago, the brand’s business model of a discount retailer based online has proved the recipe for success and it now boasts an incredible 720 million monthly active users.

Media sector surges 33% as life turns online

COVID-19 has changed the way in which people consume media, with social life being forced online – a shift that has provided a considerable boost to the nation’s home-grown digital platforms. Media is the third most valuable sector in China, with the 35 brands in the ranking accounting for 10% of the total brand value. Total brand value for the sector has grown an impressive 33% year-on-year. 

In addition to measuring overall brand value, Brand Finance also determines the relative strength of brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance. According to these criteria, WeChat is China’s strongest brand – and the world’s strongest brand according to the Brand Finance Global 500 2021 ranking - with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 95.4 out of 100 and corresponding elite AAA+ brand strength rating.

Alongside revenue forecasts, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value. As WeChat’s brand strength grew, its brand value also enjoyed a rapid boost, increasing by 25% to US$67.9 billion and jumping five spots to claim 2nd place among the nation’s most valuable brands.

As one of China’s home-grown tech successes with very strong equity, WeChat enjoyed high scores in reputation and consideration among Chinese consumers, according to Brand Finance’s Global Brand Equity Monitor. WeChat has successfully implemented a broad and all-encompassing proposition, that offers services from messaging and banking, to taxi services and online shopping – the all-in-one app has become essential to many users’ daily lives. 

During the pandemic, WeChat ran several government-mandated health code apps to keep track of those travelling or in quarantine, providing access to real-time data on COVID-19, online consultations, and self-diagnosis services powered by artificial intelligence to over 300 million users.

A beacon of innovation, WeChat has demonstrated the importance of the continuous strive for technological advancement, particularly in the face of adversity. The brand has performed extremely well this year, and it will be instrumental for WeChat to keep up this momentum to achieve similar successes in the years ahead.

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance

A video sharing app that enjoyed a colossal boost in popularity during the pandemic, TikTok/Douyin (brand value US$18.7 billion), has taken the ranking by storm as the highest new entrant in 24th spot. TikTok/Douyin focuses on optimising the content you see, as opposed to other social networks that are simply built on relationships between people who know each other. The app gives preference to material that corresponds to the hottest topics, meaning consumers – to achieve more engagement – are likely to build content that aligns with those trends. This in turn encourages advertisers to join the app to promote their products.

Other gaming and video sharing apps have also seen some of the biggest increases in brand value this year, including Bilibili (up 106% to US$1.9 billion) and 37 Games (up 85% to US$1.4 billion).

Focus on investment and infrastructure development pays off

Despite the global pandemic turmoil, Chinese brands have shown no signs of slowing down with regards to deferred investment and infrastructure development, which has in turn supported brand value and sector growth.

Utilities giant State Grid (down 3% to US$55.2 billion) has retained its position as the most valuable utilities brand in the world, as well as 6th most valuable Chinese brandSupplying power to over 1.1 billion people, equating to a staggering 88% of the population, State Grid is the world’s largest public utility brand. Following President Xi Jinping’s bold pledge to make China carbon neutral by 2060, State Grid has outlined its plan to support the nation’s clean energy drive through the development of new infrastructure - including wind, solar, and hydro power - as well as the promotion of electric energy to replace coal and fossil fuels.

Real estate brands have also been recording solid results this year, with the sector’s cumulative brand value up 7%. Sector leader Evergrande has recorded a slight 2% dip in brand value to US$20.2 billion, however. Still, with over 870 projects across more than 280 cities in China, Evergrande continues to dominate the real estate space, with considerable market share and thus solid revenues.

The story is similar for engineering & construction brands which have grown by 16% cumulatively. CRECG (up 32% to US$14.9 billion), CRCC (up 31% to US$15.9 billion), CSCEC (up 22% to US$30.4 billion), and CNBM (up 22% to US$7.1 billion) are the standout brands across the sector recording the greatest brand value growths.