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Zong Qinghou (left), head of China's biggest beverage empire Wahaha
Zong Qinghou (left), head of China's biggest beverage empire Wahaha
Tang Xiangyang

HANGZHOU — It's well known that nobody in Wahaha, China’s biggest beverage empire, dares challenge the word of Zong Qinghou. But the cult of personality surrounding the group’s founder, dubbed the "beverage king," goes much further: There are reports of how employees at a Wahaha dealers’ meeting shout Viva Wahaha! Viva Zong Qinghou!, and the rest of the audience breaks into applause.

After working on farms for 15 years, it was his mother’s retirement that pushed Zong, at the age of 33, to replace her in her job as a salesperson for a cardboard-box factory —and step into the world of business that he was destined to conquer.

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Ideas

COVID And Ukraine, A One-Two Punch That's Remaking Our World

Can you believe Poles are happy to see Germans arming? It is just one of a series of examples of how the world has turned upside down since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, completing a shift begun during the pandemic toward less interdependence and more uncertainty.

In traditional Ukrainian clothes on the Day of Unity in Kyiv, January 22, 2022, a month and two days before Russia invaded.

Jacek Żakowski

-Analysis-

WARSAW — For half a century, the grand strategy of the democratic and capitalist West against competing systems has been to build bridges and create interdependence.

The building of bridges is meant to convince people how well they can live when authoritarian regimes are exchanged for democratic capitalism. The Soviet bloc collapsed largely because the West persuaded huge numbers of communist elites by inviting them and their societies to join the coveted Western way of life.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Creating interdependence, instead, is the deepening of the international division of labor.

Russia sells us raw materials, and we sell them machines. We have the technologies and the Chinese have the factories. That created global supply chains. There are parts in the Airbus A380 that come from 40 different countries. COVID-19 vaccine components are supplied by nearly 100 companies from every continent except Antarctica.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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