China glassware gets boost from G20
Local companies in Qixian, China, which is renowned for its glassware, ride high on orders from G20 summit to rebound from recent downturn
This year's G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou not only brought more fame to its host city but also set the spotlight on the more remote county of Qixian, located in central Shanxi province, according to China Daily.
Qixian is known for its glassware and all the glassware－including the wine and water glasses－used during the G20 Summit in September were produced by Tianjiu Glassware Co Ltd. based in Qixian.
According to general manager, Lyu Gui, the company was chosen over seven competitors to provide the State banquet during the G20 Summit with more than 40,000 products in 15 different patterns, including red wine goblets and tea sets.
"As soon as we were assigned the design and production job by the organising committee of the G20 Summit, we set up a special design team and worked on our plan dozens of times," says Lyu. "You can say we gave full play to the handblown glass techniques of Qixian glassware developed over the last 60 years."
Word about the G20 job spread rapidly and orders for Qixian glassware multiplied, and not only from Tianjiu. Other companies in the county saw their orders rise, leading to some of the popular products selling out.
According to Hu Xiaofeng, director of the Qixian Glassware Industry Development Center, the G20 summit signaled another important turning point for the local glassware sector. Prior to that, eight years ago, the local companies and the government had already begun to revive the traditional industry, after it was hit by fallout from the global financial crisis.
Before that, the industry had expanded considerably with the number of glassware manufacturers jumping from 41 in 1998 to 160 one decade later.
Hu says the local government had not been disheartened by the difficulty of the task to revive the industry, but rather seized on the opportunity to restructure it. Companies were merged to make those left more competitive.
The reshuffle worked. The 38 glassware companies in the county reported total annual output last year worth 2.1 billion yuan (US$305 million), up from 1.4 billion yuan in 2008. About 45 per cent of the handblown glassware produced in China last year came from Qixian.
Companies have also come to understand that only high-end products with high quality can win in the marketplace.
"Craftsmanship is what we value the most in our work," says Tianjiu's Lyu, adding that "a company can only stand out against the stiff competition with world-class products, brand image building and product innovation. It is our goal to make Tianjiu a national industrial brand."
With this in mind, glassware companies in Qixian have been working harder to improve their product quality. Brands such as Dahua and Hongyi have been recognised as national trademarks by the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Qixian's glassware companies have been attaching great importance to overseas markets, after having first entered the international market in the 1980s.
Currently 50 per cent of its glassware are sold to the US, 30 per cent to Europe and the rest sold to South Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Canada and Australia.
But to offset the impact of the stagnant economy in these overseas markets, Qixian glassware companies have been expanding their activities in China, targeting the wholesale markets in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Yiwu. The local government has also been promoting a new rural ecommerce programme with Alibaba, setting up a special Qixian store on the platform to win more consumers.
While Qixian's glassware industry has entered a new phase of development, problems still exist. To further stimulate its development, the local government implemented a number of favorable policies on tax, land use and financing. Construction of a glassware culture park has started in Qixian, aiming at attracting tourists. The local government also invested 120 million yuan ($17.4 million) to set up an international glassware school with Diablo Glass School from Boston.