Meet China's Richest Man, Who Lives on $20 a Day

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    Jun 10, 2011 4:48 PM GMT
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13427392
    Over two decades Zong Qinghou's company grew from a school shop selling vitamin drinks to having a 15% share of China's soft drinks market
    I met Zong Qinghou, by some measures China's richest man, in his office - an anonymous building near Hangzhou railway station.

    His company Wahaha has a 15% share of China's soft drinks market, and sales of nearly a billion dollars a year in children's clothing.

    Before the interview, we were ushered into the staff canteen, a plain oblong room with formica tables where the top staff eat the same food as the workers.When we arrived in his office, I noticed the same meal had been laid out for their boss.

    Zong's monk-like devotion to duty is legendary. A former employee remembers he personally reviewed every office expense, including the purchase of a broom.

    He still personally signs every major spending decision. In his office are two safes in which he told me he keeps the company seals of each of his approximately 200 subsidiaries.

    He says he lives on $20 a day. "My only exercise is doing market research... my only hobbies are smoking and drinking tea," he told me (when I asked, he said his favourite brand was Lipton's).

    Liquid foundation
    Over two decades, he grew the company from a shop in a school selling ice lollies and vitamin drinks.

    In 1989, he established the Wahaha Nutritional Food Factory in Hangzhou to produce Wahaha Oral Liquid for Children.

    No handouts
    Zong is unusual amongst Chinese businessmen in his focus on philanthropy. But he does not just give his money away.

    He said hard work was the key to the poor lifting themselves out of poverty. If you give money to the poor "they just spend it," he told me.

    His daugther is a US passport holder, and Mr Zong said his main interest in working with foreign companies is to import products which Chinese companies are bad at making, yet his joint venture to set up Chinese factories with Danone ended acrimoniously.

    Meanwhile, the 67-year-old is busy planning a major expansion into retail. While Walmart and Carrefours are pulling out of Chinese operations, Zong plans to open 100 large supermarkets in second and third-tier cities.
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    Jun 10, 2011 7:18 PM GMT
    I live in Hangzhou, just a few miles from this man, and I live on $12/day (yes, incl. rent) because I only make $370/month...
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    Jun 10, 2011 7:26 PM GMT
    I doubt the rest of his family lives that way though (e.g., the daughter with the American passport)

  • May 05, 2013 7:30 AM GMT
    me icon_razz.gif
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    May 05, 2013 7:31 AM GMT
    God if every wealthy person was like him the economy would be even more in the shit !
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    May 05, 2013 1:14 PM GMT
    whateveryo saidGod if every wealthy person was like him the economy would be even more in the shit !


    Fallacy. The economy is driven by need - people have needs that others fill for a price - and what doesn't get spent gets saved and invested. The fact this man saves his money means that it gets reinvested elsewhere anyway unless he keeps it in a mattress or sitting in a cave.
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    May 05, 2013 1:25 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    whateveryo saidGod if every wealthy person was like him the economy would be even more in the shit !


    Fallacy. The economy is driven by need - people have needs that others fill for a price - and what doesn't get spent gets saved and invested. The fact this man saves his money means that it gets reinvested elsewhere anyway unless he keeps it in a mattress or sitting in a cave.


    Ok I fucked up there icon_lol.gif You made a good point about savings contributing to the economy - i.e giving the banks more money to theoretically loan out etc.

    Would be interesting to see how all of his wealth is distributed.
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    May 05, 2013 1:27 PM GMT
    riddler78 said

    Fallacy. The economy is driven by need - people have needs that others fill for a price - and what doesn't get spent gets saved and invested. The fact this man saves his money means that it gets reinvested elsewhere anyway unless he keeps it in a mattress or sitting in a cave.


    No, that all depends on WHERE he's reinvesting his money. If he put it all into a term deposit, those dollars are in the financial system but not directly affecting the cash economy, or sectors like retail/housing, or middle class incomes, etc. You can have wealthy banks and a poor economy, or a good stock market index, but a poor economy with high unemployment (sound familiar?) icon_cool.gif

    You're making assumptions about where he's investing his money, and I'm not sure we really know (from that article, anyway).
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    May 05, 2013 1:54 PM GMT
    seanp7 said
    riddler78 said

    Fallacy. The economy is driven by need - people have needs that others fill for a price - and what doesn't get spent gets saved and invested. The fact this man saves his money means that it gets reinvested elsewhere anyway unless he keeps it in a mattress or sitting in a cave.


    No, that all depends on WHERE he's reinvesting his money. If he put it all into a term deposit, those dollars are in the financial system but not directly affecting the cash economy, or sectors like retail/housing, or middle class incomes, etc. You can have wealthy banks and a poor economy, or a good stock market index, but a poor economy with high unemployment (sound familiar?) icon_cool.gif

    You're making assumptions about where he's investing his money, and I'm not sure we really know (from that article, anyway).


    No matter where he's investing, so long as he's investing/saving, he'll have an impact - ie making an impact on the cost of capital (by making more money available to borrow, invest etc). And in a poor economy where you have wealthy banks, a good stock market index, and high unemployment, I'd suggest the primary issue there isn't the fact people aren't spending money but that there have been government interventions that have gone awry (sound familiar? :winkicon_smile.gif
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    May 05, 2013 2:30 PM GMT


    "He says he lives on $20 a day. "My only exercise is doing market research... my only hobbies are smoking and drinking tea,"


    He couldn't do that here. His smoke would cost over 10.00 for a pack, his tea would run him at least a buck a day (and I'm being generous, unless you buy noname sticks n twigs tea) and his internet would run him at least 60.00 a month, and what does this guy eat? He must eat. Who is paying for his food? Who is paying for his clothing? Transportation to and from the office (or does he live in his office?) Toiletries?

    ...oh never mind.
  • NerdLifter

    Posts: 1509

    May 05, 2013 2:34 PM GMT
    meninlove saidHe must eat. Who is paying for his food?

    What is this: food? Impossibru!