Plush toys made in Ankang are on display. (Chinanews.com/Zhang Yuan)
Ankang city in the Qinba Mountains of northwest China's Shaanxi Province is becoming increasingly well-known for its plush toys.
The upcoming 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou city, east China's Zhejiang Province will feature 6 million plush mascots made in Ankang. The production process for the Games' plush mascots involves 12 steps: fabric inspection, cutting, compounding, embroidery, printing, digital printing, sewing, stuffing, sealing, quality inspection, packaging, and more.
Duan Shaofeng, general manager of a local animation industry development company, said his company received the order for the Asian Games mascots in around 2020.
The production process for these plush mascots was quite intricate, and the company took great care to ensure that the quality requirements are met. The company set up six fully operational production lines and staffed them with over 500 workers.
Ankang has produced plush mascots for a number of sports events, including the 14th National Games of China, the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and the 31st FISU World University Games in Chengdu. The plush mascots for the upcoming Asian Games made in Ankang will once again enhance the reputation of the city as a hub of plush toys in China.
The rise of Ankang as a hub for plush toys in China is a testament to the friendship and collaboration between east China's Jiangsu Province and Shaanxi Province.
In 2017, Ankang was still a poverty-stricken area in Shaanxi.
The relocation of residents has resulted in Ankang's labor resources becoming very concentrated. Additionally, being located in the water conservation area of China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project, Ankang's heavy industrial development is restricted due to a focus on ecological protection.
Changzhou city in Jiangsu Province has seen a decline in labor-intensive industries due to industrial policy adjustments and rising labor costs, resulting in the need for industrial transfer.
Workers make plush toys at a factory in Ankang. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)
After introducing the plush toy industry, Ankang took multiple measures, including establishing effective promotion mechanisms, facilitating the transfer of industrial resources, introducing preferential policies, and attracting investment.
These efforts not only helped Ankang absorb production capacity from the eastern province, but also resulted in significant benefits such as increased employment opportunities, poverty alleviation, accelerated urbanization, and enhanced industrialization levels.
At the end of 2017, Wang Liang made an inspection trip to Ziyang county, Ankang from Beijing. Less than one month later, he founded a factory in Ziyang on Dec. 28 of the same year. The establishment of the company marked a pivotal moment in the development of the plush toy cultural and creative industry in Ankang.
Photo shows the first plush toy factory in Ankang, which was established on Dec. 28, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)
"The overall business environment in Ankang is relatively good. When we first came to establish the factory, we used government-provided resettlement housing, so the company only needed to purchase equipment to start production directly," said Wang.
By the end of 2022, Ankang had 826 plush toy enterprises, providing employment for 18,000 people and achieving a total output value of 5.17 billion yuan ($712 million). The products are exported to more than 80 countries and regions including Europe, America, Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East, making Ankang the fourth largest plush toy production base in China.
The production headquarters of Walt Disney Co. is completed and put into operation in Shuhe township, Xunyang city, a county-level city in Ankang city, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, May 10, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Development and Reform Commission of Ankang)
The five major centers for the plush toy industry, located in the Hengkou Demonstration Zone of Ankang, are dedicated to building a closed-loop service system for the plush toy cultural and creative industry supply chain. They guide various resources to enter and promote diversified industrial services.
Photo shows the interior of the five major centers for the plush toy industry, located in the Hengkou Demonstration Zone, Ankang. (Photo courtesy of Ankang Municipal Bureau of Culture, Tourism, Radio and TV)
Plush toys require a robust logistics network to reach global markets. However, as an inland city, Ankang lacks natural ports and has experienced slower development in the logistics industry.
In recent years, Ankang has partnered with Shanghai International Port (Group) Co., Ltd. to establish a dry port in the Hengkou Demonstration Zone. This collaboration aims to enhance cost-effectiveness and efficiency in physical industries, with a particular focus on the plush toy cultural and creative industry.
The construction of the Ankang Bonded Logistics Center (Type B) project is progressing steadily. The China-Europe freight train route, connecting Ankang, Xi'an, and Europe, is now operating regularly. This development has significantly expanded Ankang's foreign trade, reaching 80 countries and regions worldwide.
The inaugural rail-sea intermodel freight train running along the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor leaves Ankang for ASEAN. (Chinanews.com/Chen Feng)
Enhancing the technological sophistication and added value of plush toy products is a pressing requirement for the ongoing development of the plush toy industry in Ankang. "We are developing smart plush toys that can interact with humans, in the hope of enhancing the core competitiveness of our products," said Wang.
Plush toy elements can be seen in many parts of Ankang, including Ankang Fuqiang Airport, the country's first plush toy-themed airport, the whimsical plush toy-themed street, the adorable plush toy parade, and the plush toy cultural and creative town.
Ankang is actively embracing innovation and reform in independent brand intellectual property (IP), development of smart plush toys and trendy plush toys, and integration of culture and tourism, constantly pushing the boundaries of technological sophistication in plush toys and seeking new advances and changes.
Photo shows a view of Ankang. (Photo courtesy of the Development and Reform Commission of Ankang)