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Editor’s note: In 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China's foreign trade demonstrated strong resilience, surging 21.4 percent to 39.1 trillion yuan ($6.05 trillion) while its exports expanded by 21.2 percent year-on-year to 21.73 trillion yuan.
While the world is no stranger to made-in-China goods, it may not be familiar with some of these interesting yet under-reported commodities.
Let’s have a look at some of these exports!
Have you ever thought about the glasses you wear may have come from a small city Danyang in East China’s Jiangsu province?
Danyang, often called the "City of Glasses", is China's largest production and export base for optical frames and lenses, as it produces more than 100 million spectacle frames and more than 400 million spectacle lenses every year.
The city plays a crucial role in the global eyewear market, with its annual spectacle lenses production accounting for 75 percent of China's production and 45 percent of the global total.
The city is also the world's largest production base for spectacle lenses, Asia's largest eyewear distribution center and China's largest eyewear production base. The eyewear industry in the city traces its origin to the 1960s and employs 50,000 people spread across 1,600 companies. In 2019, 23 million blue-light-blocking spectacle lenses were sold in Danyang.
According to Market research company iResearch, the market size of eyewear products is expected to surpass 100 billion yuan ($15.76 billion) in 2024.
China's wig industry is mainly export-oriented, and North America and Africa account for more than 70 percent of total exports, according to a report by LeadLeo Research Institute.
In China, more than 70 percent of wig manufacturers are located in Xuchang, Henan province, and Qingdao, Shandong province.
Xuchang is the world's top wig exporting base and the largest R&D and distribution center. The city has about 300 wig-producing companies, and more than 300,000 people work in the sector, according to the local government.
Among the 300 wig-making firms in Xuchang, only a handful sell products domestically or have retail stores.
They produce more than 3,000 kinds of wig products, and export them to about 120 countries and regions. The wig-making industry has integrated the latest technologies, techniques and materials, and more than 170 technologies have been patented.
By 2023, Xuchang aims to achieve wig export revenue of 20 billion yuan, with an annual sales growth rate of 10 percent. The city also plans to increase investment in cross-border e-commerce platforms, and set up wig exhibitions and sales centers in the United States, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
So far, more than 20 major companies have established branches overseas. In 2019, sales of wigs through cross-border e-commerce platforms reached $2.15 billion, jumping 15.6 percent year-on-year, according to the local government.
Weifang in East China’s Shandong province is known as one of China's four largest kite-producing areas. There are over 300 kite-making companies with an annual output of nearly 2 billion yuan ($308.50 million).
The domestic and international market shares of Weifang's kites are 85 percent and 75 percent, respectively, and the products are exported to over 40 countries and regions, including Europe, the United States and Southeast Asia.
As the birthplace of kites, Weifang has held the International Kite Festival annually since 1984, attracting competitors and tourists from around the world.
Weifang kites, a traditional handicraft treasure in the city, was named a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
Every day, an average of nearly 20,000 guitars made in Zheng'an, a small county in Southwest China’s Guizhou province are exported to global market. Their destinations include the US, Brazil and France.
Zheng’an boasts the largest guitar manufacturing base in the world, churning out more than 6 million guitars every year with a total value of 6 billion yuan ($948 million), accounting for half of China’s total guitar exports.
Tangwu in east China's Shandong Province is another example of small town well-known for its electric guitar manufacturing.
Currently, Tangwu boasts nearly 100 manufacturers and suppliers of musical instruments, and produces around 800,000 electric guitars annually, with an output value of over 1 billion yuan (about 155 million U.S. dollars).
Their products have been exported to more than 30 countries and regions including the United States and Australia.
With the penetration of the internet, more and more local businesses have begun to foray into the e-commerce sector.
There are more than 160 online stores in Tangwu selling musical instruments, generating annual sales of 200 million yuan, and the number of electric guitars exported through cross-border e-commerce accounts for one third of the country's total, said Li Huabo, deputy head of Changle County's e-commerce association.
Every three violins in the world come from Donggaocun town, in Beijing's suburban Pinggu district. Their violins have been exported to more than 30 countries and regions, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the world's total violin production.
Located in the Pinggu district of Beijing, Donggaocun town has a 30-year history of violin manufacturing. In 2009, the town's violin production reached 200,000, and they are sold to more than 30 countries and regions on four continents including Europe, Asia, America and Oceania, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the world's total violin production.
The product line has expanded from the single violin production to a series of musical instruments such as erhu, bass and guitar. In 2009, Donggaocun town was recognized as "China's Violin Industry Base" by China National Light Industry Council and China Musical Instrument Association.
Dingzhou in North China's Hebei province saw the production value of its sporting goods industry surged 128.6 percent year-on-year to 8.28 billion yuan ($1.29 billion) in the first half of 2021.
The domestic market share of the Dingzhou's fitness-related products and sporting goods reached over 25 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, its strength training equipment products are already exported to more than 50 countries and regions, including Europe, the U.S. and Australia, with a global market share of 25 percent.
Tianhua Sporting Goods Co Ltd, located in Dingzhou, is an official supplier of protective pads for short track speed skating for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Thanks to the rising popularity of winter sports, the company’s sales soared from about 10 million yuan in 2018 to more than 20 million yuan in 2020, and its share of the domestic market for protective pads used at ice stadiums reached more than 70 percent.
At present, the Dingzhou sporting goods industry continues to actively cooperate with R&D institutions as well as institutions of higher learning for the development of talents, seeking to make new breakthroughs in technological research and promote new product development.
Nowadays, there is an increasing number of beauty lovers who have higher requirements of makeup products as well as cosmetic applicators. They are accustomed to using different brushes to create various makeup looks.
When it comes to quality makeup brushes, famous brands from developed countries, such as Japan's Chikuhodo, often come to mind.
However, Qingxian county in Cangzhou, North China’s Hebei province, has emerged as one of the country's largest makeup brush manufacturing areas.
Qingxian has rich experience in manufacturing brushes for luxury international brands since the 1990s, when the first brush maker in the county was established by a businessman from South Korea.
Thanks to its convenient transportation, low labor costs and favorable local government policies, Qingxian now boasts 141 makeup brush manufacturers, including 15 foreign-invested ones, and more than 1,000 factories making related and supporting materials.
"About half of the brushes made domestically are from the county and the quality of our brushes can compete with big name international brands," said Kang Shaoxing, president of the Qingxian Makeup Brush Industry Association.
In 2019, revenue from the makeup brush industry in Qingxian topped 1.5 billion yuan ($232 million). Currently, the county has registered almost 500 local brands, which operate a total of 2,000 e-commerce stores at different online platforms, according to the association.