Zong Qinghou, founder of Chinese beverage giant Wahaha Group, passed away on Sunday
Published: Feb 25, 2024 12:07 PM
File Photo:Xinhua

Zong Qinghou File Photo: Xinhua

Zong Qinghou, the founder and chairman of Chinese beverage giant Wahaha Group, died on Sunday at the age of 79, the company has confirmed.

On Thursday, the company said that Zong was hospitalized but remained in stable condition. The group's business is operating as normal. 

In 1987, Zong led two retired teachers to set up a school-run enterprise. With a loan of 140,000 yuan ($19,700 at current rates), they started selling soda and popsicles on a consignment basis. Later through technological and marketing innovation, they created the famous brand Wahaha. 

Zong also became a major representative of China's private entrepreneurs after reform and opening-up kicked off in 1978, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.

Zong was a deputy to the 10th, 11th and 12th National People's Congresses, and a representative of the 12th, 13th and 14th National Congresses of the Communist Party of China in Zhejiang Province. 

He won honors including the National Model Worker, the National May 1 Labor Medal and the "Top 100 outstanding private entrepreneurs at the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up award."

"For Chinese entrepreneurs, it is essential to be patriotic, to innovate continuously and to care for employees," Zong once said. "Only in this way can private firms thrive."

With regard to personal wealth, Zong topped the list of the richest people in the Chinese mainland on more than one occasion. As of March 23, 2023, Zong ranked No.121 on the Hurun Global Rich List 2023 with wealth of 100 billion yuan. 

As a leader in China's beverage industry, Zong created a large number of household beverage brands including Wahaha purified water and AD calcium milk. He was regarded as one of the representatives of the first generation of entrepreneurs in Zhejiang andiconic figure of China's economic reform. 

Set up in 1987, the company continued to expand, with output value exceeding 100 million yuan in 1990, climbing to 10 billion yuan in 2003 and reaching 78.28 billion yuan in 2013. In 2022, the group company's sales reached 51.202 billion yuan.

Media reported that Zong had the habit of reading hard copies of major newspapers in China, which his assistants printed out for him - meaning each time he went on a business trip, his team would bring a small printer, A4 paper and ink cartridges.

Although Zong once served as the chairman of Wahaha Group, a successor has long been in place. In December 2021, Wahaha Group officially announced that Zong Fuli, daughter of Zong Qinghou, was installed as vice chairman and general manager of the group. The father did not hide his pride in her daughter, giving her 90 points in a public media interview for her performance in running the group.

In a Dialogue program of CCTV last year, Zong Qinghou addressed succession within the company. He said he would not retire, but would step back and let young people take charge of day-to-day operations. 

Global Times