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Milk Tea Girl

Zhang Zetian

Zhang Zetian w

Born in Nanjing, Zhang Zetian is an exchange student at Columbia University. She became an overnight sensation when a classmate at Nanjing Foreign Language School – where Zhang studied before entering Tsinghua University – took a picture of her in school uniform holding a cup of milk tea in one hand. Zhang’s photo was posted on, a social networking site. Complete strangers then forwarded the photo hundreds of thousands of times, giving her the nickname “Milk Tea Girl”.

Why is she in the news?

Early this month it was rumoured that Milk Tea Girl is romantically linked to’s founder and chief executive Liu Qiangdong, who is 19 years her senior. They have both issued a statement admitting that they are acquainted but denying that they are dating.

Is this a publicity stunt? Cynics think the timing is suspicious because is planning an initial public offering in New York. Southern Weekend says JD’s Liu has become a household name in China since the speculation started about the two dating. The entrepreneur, unmarried at 40, has become the most talked-about bachelor in the country. “The rumours are more effective in promoting the brand of than all the money the company has poured into advertising over the years,” reckons Southern Entertainment Weekly.

Taking advantage of his new celebrity, Liu has moved forward the release date for his autobiography. The book, which chronicles his journey from obscurity to competition with e-commerce giants like Alibaba Group, the parent company of Taobao and Tmall, is meant to inspire young people today. Perhaps that also explains why he was hanging out with Milk Tea Girl? “I really like interacting with young people because I too experienced the same confusion, frustration and joy when I was young. I really want to share with them my own experience and knowledge,” Liu writes in the preface to his book.

Meanwhile, more news about milk tea

Xiang Piao Piao, a Chinese company that makes instant milk tea, was also in the news last week. Based in Huzhou in Zhejiang province, it is planning to raise Rmb1 billion ($160.96 million) on China’s A-share market. Xiang Piao Piao made Rmb1.3 billion in revenue and Rmb440 million in profits in 2012. It sells over 700 million cups of instant milk tea a year, says Time Weekly.

Chinese milk tea, much like the English version, is made of black tea topped up heavily with milk and sugar. The tea leaves are boiled and brewed in water to extract the full flavour, although the Chinese typically like to add evaporated or condensed milk to the drink.

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