Chinese jewellery factory owner Zhou Mingwang sums up the global appeal of this month’s British royal wedding with one line: “It’s a love story.” But, he adds with a sly smile, the much-ballyhooed April 29 union of Prince William and girlfriend Kate Middleton is also a great business opportunity for Zhou and his fellow entrepreneurs in this eastern China factory town.
Zhou, 32, has sold more than 100,000 replicas of the blue 18-carat sapphire and diamond engagement ring that once belonged to Princess Diana and which William offered to Kate when he proposed. The wedding may not be a closely watched event in China, which is largely free of the hype generated elsewhere by the British royal family, but its potential has not escaped the country’s nimble and web-savvy entrepreneurs.
Others in Yiwu — home of the world’s largest wholesale market for consumer goods, many of which are exported — also are cashing in on the royal union by churning out mugs, flags, and other Wills and Kate bric-a-brac. Last-minute orders continue to flow in. Zhou just shipped 100 rings to an Australian customer, while a French fashion magazine bought 35,000 for a newsstand give-away promotion.
“Ten years ago, China was not experiencing globalisation like now,” Zhou said. “The Internet was not as popular as it is now. But as it becomes more popular, we can know what happens in foreign countries right away.” Ever watchful for a business opportunity, Chinese manufacturers have shown particular skill in capitalising on global events.