Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

31/12/2014

Religion in India bubbles over into politics – Businessweek

In small-town northern India, Muslims are offered food and money to convert to Hinduism. If that doesn’t suffice, they say they’re threatened. Across the country, the Christmas holiday is canceled for hundreds of government servants who spend the day publicly extolling the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Powerful Hindu nationalist leaders — some with close ties to Modi’s government — say they intend to ensure India becomes a completely Hindu nation.

But Modi himself? He has remained silent as nationalist demands have bubbled over into day-to-day politics, and amid growing fears among minority religious groups of creeping efforts to shunt them aside.

“We told him we feel insecure and fearful,” said the Rev. Dominic Emmanuel, a Roman Catholic priest who was in a delegation of religious leaders who met a few days ago with Modi. “We told him, ‘If there were just two words from your side, prime minister, we would feel so much better.'”

via Religion in India bubbles over into politics – Businessweek.

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12/12/2014

Christmas celebrations: Oh what fun | The Economist

CITIES across China blink with fairy lights, fancy hotels flaunt trees and tinsel, and glossy magazine covers display festive recipes and table settings. “Joy up!” reads a sign (in English) on three illuminated trees by a shopping mall in Beijing. The Chinese are doing just that.

In the first decades of Communist rule in China Christianity was banned, along with other religions. Now there are tens of millions of Christians in China and faiths of all kinds are blossoming. But this has little to do with the country’s fast-growing fascination with Christmas. In the West the holiday is a commercialised legacy of Christian culture; in China it is almost entirely a product of Mammon. Father Christmas is better known to most than Jesus.

Well before Christmas took hold in China’s cities, its factories were churning out Christmas essentials for consumption in the West. Industrially, China is now the Christmas king. According to Xinhua, a state-run news agency, more than 60% of Christmas trinkets worldwide last year came from a single “Christmas village”—Yiwu (in fact, a city), in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

But ever more of these goodies now stay in China, to satisfy a domestic craving. Some are tailored to Chinese tastes: Father Christmases playing the saxophone, for example, are a common decoration—no-one quite knows why. This year some shops are putting Santa hats on sheep; the Chinese new year in February, another excuse for hedonism, will be sheep-themed. A shop selling sex aids in Beijing displays a mannequin with a short Santa hot-pants suit, complete with white furry leg warmers.

Christmas in China never really ends. Decorations sometimes remain up year-round. In 2016 the south-western city of Chengdu will host Asia’s first “SantaPark”—a giant Christmas-themed amusement park modelled on a Finnish attraction. It will be known as the “official home of Santa Claus” (despite Chengdu’s sweltering summers and mild winters).

Family reunions are not part of Christmas tradition in China; for most people it is a chance to enjoy public displays of lights, and, for a growing number of younger Chinese, to exchange gifts with colleagues and friends (China’s home-grown festivals are not so centred around gift-giving). As elsewhere, Christmas in China is a merry time to shop.

via Christmas celebrations: Oh what fun | The Economist.

21/12/2013

Christmas 2013: Inside a Chinese toy factory – Telegraph

Please note the last sentence in this abstract: “… an even bigger problem, which will hit in four to five years’ time, is that workers do not want these jobs any more. It’s not so much about the money, they just don’t want them.”

Good news for next level countries seeking to manufacture for developed countries.

“Yang Jiandong is a Chinese Christmas elf; toys and gadgets division. Here in steamy South China, 6,000 miles away from your front room, the trim and sprightly 39-year-old runs one of the thousands of factories that make the iPads and Furbies, Transformer robots and LeapPads that will soon be waiting under our Christmas trees.

English: Remote Controlled Car

English: Remote Controlled Car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year, his favourite gadget is a remote-controlled flying battle drone from the movie Avatar. He giggles when, after navigating it around the showroom, it crashes into the wall. “No problem,” he smiles. “These ones are hard to break”. His company, Attop, turns out 800,000 remote-controlled helicopters a year but also makes accessories for Barbies, puzzles and Hot Wheels cars for Mattel.

In his biscuit-coloured factory, hundreds of workers man the production lines: teenage boys with spiky orange-dyed hair and studded leather jackets, old aunties in woollen trousers and young women who diligently focus on snapping together the shell of the toys or soldering the electronics inside.

One floor down sit the £100,000-a-piece injection moulding machines that crank out the plastic components. Two floors above sit the painters, the most skilled and highly-paid workers in the plant.

They spray the toys with colour or stamp them before moving them to another line for final testing and then boxing.

In the warehouse, boxes of remote-controlled helicopters are marked to go to Costa Rica and Guatemala while Hello Kitty toys are bound for Brazil. “The shipment to the UK left a while back,” a worker says.

There are two commonly held beliefs about Chinese manufacturing. The first is that Chinese factories only churn out cheap, disposable tat.

The second is that they resemble Dickensian workhouses.

But while small, dirty, polluting factories do exist in South China, they are increasingly being squeezed out of the market by well-run, advanced plants like Mr Yang’s.

A recent Chinese scandal which found medical waste being melted into plastic for new toys actually helped Mr Yang’s business, he said. “We had to write to our customers to let them know we did not have any problems,” he says. “Now more buyers turn to trust-worthy companies like ours”.

There is a 100-seat “business academy” with lessons for workers after their shifts, a grand piano in the hallway (“Anyone can play it over lunch”), a mini farm for workers to “relax by growing their own vegetables”, and a research and development department that designed all the Avatar toys in house.

Other plants are even more impressive. Three years ago, a spate of suicides at Foxconn’s Longhua factory convinced the world that the giant factories making our iPhones and iPads are vast, alienating and uncaring.

Today, after intense public pressure, Longhua has become a model factory, with football pitches, reduced working hours and a robot-assisted production line.

Behind the change is consumer pressure. “Ten years ago,” says Mr Yang, “Foreign companies would pick you to make their toys if you could give them a cheap price. They did not care about certification or research and development. But now the first thing they do is check whether you have safety certificates, and whether you are able to certify new toys. It costs huge amounts to get these tests done each time.”

At Attop, the managers believe the smaller toy makers, the ones who have provided cheap toys for years, will soon hit the wall. Christmas next year will be more expensive, and so will the Christmas after that.

“The golden years of the toy business were 1985 to 2000 but since then it has gone really downhill,” said Dave Cave, the British founder of Dragon-i toys in Hong Kong. “First the EU demanded to have all these tests in place. It has made the toys safer, but it has also made them more expensive.”

“Then the Chinese government decided to pay factory workers a fair wage, which of course I support. But costs are rising. And an even bigger problem, which will hit in four to five years’ time, is that workers do not want these jobs any more. It’s not so much about the money, they just don’t want them.””

via Video: Christmas 2013: Inside a Chinese toy factory – Telegraph.

22/12/2012

* Yiwu’s purveyors of Christmas tat give China a dose of ho-ho-ho

This article illustrates extremely well our view that the Chinese mindset is practical, materialistic and down-to-earth. And I am talking about the entrepreneurs at Yiwu City and the shopkeepers embracing the Christmas spirit (or at least the Christmas decorations anyway); as well as the average urbanite who wants to celebrate international festivals whatever the origin and raison d’etre.

The Times: “On Thursday the Ling Guo massage parlour, in the central business district of Beijing, suddenly turned festive.

A vendor hangs Christmas decorations in between Santa Claus dolls at her stall ahead of Christmas at a wholesale market in Wuhan, Hubei province, ChinaAn outsized image of Father Christmas beamed from the window, flanked by a manic array of snowmen, reindeer and present-stuffed stockings. The masseuses greeted customers in Santa hats.

It is not a triumph of Western culture, but of raw Chinese salesmanship, entrepreneurial flair and desperation.

Elsewhere, the festive decorations are up, adorning everything from roadside noodle shops to suburban shopping malls. Where China’s Christmas lights used to be restricted to the big hotels and stores in Beijing and Shanghai, the briskest sales are now to small shops in provincial cities.

“We are absolutely focused more on the Chinese market and we are shifting 2,000 plastic Christmas trees a day domestically,” said Liu Qing, from Yanghang Art and Crafts, who has been part of the all-out push by manufacturers to persuade the Chinese to celebrate someone else’s season of goodwill.

“Our biggest buyers are now from Shandong and Chongqing, which is so different from a couple of years ago,” Mr Liu said. “Chinese people’s living standards have improved so much, so people start going after something more spiritual. Christmas is a lively holiday. The younger generations like it.”

For a growing number of Chinese businesses making Christmas-related goods, domestic sales now represent their single biggest — and often fastest-growing — market. It is an unexpected development in a country that does not celebrate Christmas. Without it, though, hundreds of factories would be driven to bankruptcy because, despite strong sales, Santa’s Chinese elves are working on tiny margins.

The key to the tinsel-strewn, gold-baubled Christmas-ification of China is to be found on the country’s east coast in Yiwu, the acknowledged world hub of yuletide tat — or “ornamental handicrafts” as they are described by the city’s factory owners.

It is from these workshops that Yiwu annually exports about £200 million of plastic trees, self-illuminating angel choirs and every other Christmas decoration conceivable. Other manufacturing centres in China also feed into the great £1.3 billion flow of Christmas exports, but none do it with such determination and concentration as Yiwu.

The problem, however, is that Yiwu became too good at its trade at just the wrong moment. In 2010 the city had 400 companies making Christmas products; now there are more than 750, with about 120,000 workers engaged in making Christmas goods.

The huge jump in capacity and competition coincided with a drop of about 25 per cent in what had traditionally been Yiwu’s strongest markets for its tawdry wares, Europe and the United States. The effect on profits has been harsh. This year labour costs in Yiwu have risen by 15 per cent and material prices have risen by about 10 per cent.

Chen Jinlin, from the Yiwu Christmas Products Industry Association, said that some of his members have suffered 20 per cent to 25 per cent declines in orders. “There are nearly twice as many companies as there were two years ago fighting for pieces of a smaller cake,” he said. “We are encouraging manufacturers to develop new products, especially lower-cost ones, to adjust to the new economic reality.”

But the longer-term answer, said Mr Hu, the sales manager of the Youlide Art & Crafts Company, has to be to look for new markets, China being the most convenient and potentially vast. Many of Yiwu’s Christmas goodsmakers have seen the domestic share of their sales rocket to 20 per cent of the total over one or two years.

They have also changed the way that they look at opportunities abroad: a shift of marketing focus has made Brazil the largest export destination for Yiwu’s Christmas goods, accounting for 12 per cent of the total. A similar drive has proved successful in Russia, where sales of Yiwu’s seasonal goods have tripled in the past year.

“About 80 per cent of our products go to South America, so we’ve had to change things to reflect that,” Mr Hu said. “Brazilians like their artificial Christmas trees in a paler shade of green than the Europeans.””

via Yiwu’s purveyors of Christmas tat give China a dose of ho-ho-ho | The Times.

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