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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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Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Sveiki!*

Welcome to Thursday, where more Ukrainian soldiers surrender in Mariupol, Sri Lanka defaults on its debt,and George W. Bush offers an epic geopolitical gaffe. Meanwhile, Lili Bai in Chinese-language digital media The Initium looks at what’s driving the current “expat exodus” at play in Shanghai.

[*Latvian]

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