Made-in-China stuffed bears spread joy of Christmas overseas

By Xinhua
Published : 25 Dec 2023 08:49 PM

During the Christmas season, Care Bears dressed in Santa Claus hats and other decorations, an adorable plush toy favored by kids, can be easily found on the shelves of shopping malls in the United States.

Care Bears are multicolored bears that were used on greeting cards and later turned into plush bears.

Before these stuffed animals reached their destination, they had been produced in the hinterland of the Qinling Mountains in China and journeyed for almost a month across the ocean. In the birthplace of toys, Ankang Heng'an Toy Ltd., in the city of Ankang in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Huang Longhua threaded a needle deftly and sewed the back of a stuffed bear in just one minute.

"I have been working here for four years. Every day I can sew more than 400 toys and earn 150 yuan (about 21 U.S. dollars)," said the 43-year-old worker, who used to be a stay-at-home mom.

Company manager Min Hua said the production of a Care Bear involves nearly 20 workers covering eight procedures. After applying textile printing on piece goods, workers would add embroidery. Then, they use machines to cut patterns, stitch them by following the given sketch, and stuff them.

"In particular, we stuff toys with polypropylene cotton, a kind of fluffy and springy material that is made from recycled materials," added Min. After that, workers sew every edge close before the inspection and packaging processes.

Founded in 2018, the company continues to expand its export business of soft toys in North America and Europe. It produces over 10 million Care Bears each year. Last year, its exports reached 180 million yuan.

"Orders once dropped during the pandemic, but market demand quickly recovered and we began to prepare for the Christmas season six months ago," said Min.

She also noted the toy factory is highly labor-hungry, and that was why the company chose to settle down in Ankang, where labor and land costs were relatively low.

To ensure quick delivery, in 2020, the local government and Shanghai International Port (Group) Co., Ltd. (SIPG) co-founded a logistics company named Ankang SIPG, ensuring multimodal transport at a lower cost.

"Some of the bears can take trains to central China's Wuhan, and then reach Shanghai by waterway before heading to the U.S. by sea. Those with tighter schedules can ride on trucks to Shanghai and then to the U.S. by ship, a whole trip of less than a month. To reach the European market, China-Europe freight train services are a good choice," said Li Wanhua, deputy director of the office of Ankang's plush toy industry leading group.

The toy companies are the epitome of the flourishing plush toy industry in Ankang, which boasts 788 enterprises in this industry, creating more than 19,000 jobs, with an annual output totaling over 5.8 billion yuan by November 2023.