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A Maine Paper Mill’s Unexpected Savior: China


She was followed by a retinue of family members, many of whom work for her. Ms. Zhang’s father, a military officer, was branded a “counterrevolutionary” and imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. They were poor, and she had to go to work at a young age, to support her seven younger siblings.

In 2006, the year Nine Dragons went public, she was ranked the richest person in China by the Hurun Report.

“My sister hates lazy people the most. She is always energetic and more diligent than any other person I know,” one of her sisters, Zhang Xiubo, told China’s state-run press agency. “We obey her unconditionally.”

Inside the warehouse, the company had erected a white tent, fitted with decorative light fixtures and humming air-conditioners. A row of Maine’s most prominent politicians was seated on the dais, beside Ms. Zhang, and the first rows of folding chairs were occupied by dark-suited Chinese executives. On screens near the stage, time-lapse drone footage sped through months of restoration work.

Ms. Zhang got to her feet, her face barely visible over the lectern. “In China, we have a common saying: ‘Separated as we are, thousands of miles apart, we come together by predestination,’” she said in Mandarin, as her son translated. Mr. Mayo presented five keys to the city — to Ms. Zhang, her husband, son, brother and nephew — and the politicians stood to celebrate the mill’s reopening.

“The paper industry in Maine is coming back,” Senator Angus King announced. “Why is this important to Maine? Because trees are what we’ve got.”

After that, millworkers got up, one after another, to pay tribute to Ms. Zhang.

A mill shutdown “leaves an awful hole in you that doesn’t go away for quite some time,” said Michelle Fisher, a logistics supervisor, who had lived through six.

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