The richest person in China, 76-year old Zong Qinghou, is the founder and chairman of Wahaha, China’s third-largest beverage maker. But Zong had markedly high hurdles to clear to accrue his riches. As the son of an official of the deposed Kuomintang regime, he spent his late youth harvesting salt and farmed during the Cultural Revolution. For the first ten years of Chinese economic reforms after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, he worked as a sales manager for state-owned companies.
In 1987, along with two retired teachers, he started selling soft drinks and popsicles, says his company website. In 2009, his company sold on average ten bottles to every Chinese citizen, Sina Finance reported.
A report in 2008 by the investigative newspaper 21 Century Business Herald caused a stir when it revealed that Zong has had an American green card since 1999 and that his daughter Zong Fuli had American citizenship, even though he was a member of parliament in China. He is known for his professed frugality, not spending more than $20 per day.