Zhang Zetian, twenty-four today, is the wealthiest woman in all of China, though you might not have guessed that from this early photo:
In 2009, Zhang Zetian was an ordinary high school student. One day, as she was leaving class, a friend snapped a photo of her with a Chinese milk tea drink in her hand, backpack slung over one shoulder. Zhang’s photo was then posted on Renren.com, a popular social networking site. Complete strangers then forwarded the photo hundreds of thousands of times, proclaiming the “Milk Tea Girl” to be “adorable!” and “fresh faced!”
This is not, however, how she piled up $8 billion. That story starts in New York City in 2014, when Zhang spent a year as an exchange student at Barnard, and she met Liu Qiangdong, a fortyish entrepreneur (JD.com, China’s second-largest online retailer) who was studying at Columbia and hoping to arrange an IPO. They hit it off at once, rumors began to fly, and Liu’s IPO was successful; the following year they were wed in Sydney, Australia, and in 2016 Richard and Nancy (maybe you need an English-sounding name if you’re a Chinese billionaire) had a daughter. Their investments overlap to a certain extent, though apparently her 17 percent of Bubs, an Australian baby-food company, is through her company, not Liu’s.
While she works diligently to promote JD’s line of luxe goods, she’d just as soon do the sneakers-and-jeans thing:
And yes, you can find her on Instagram.