SEA­FAR­ING SOFT POWER

Global Times US Edition - - LIFE - By Wei Xi

China’s first air­craft car­rier, the Liaon­ing, made a big splash when it pulled into Hong Kong ear­lier in July, its first trip to the city. Per­haps look­ing to re­mem­ber the oc­ca­sion, nu­mer­ous Hongkongers who went down to see the ship ended up walk­ing home with Liaon­ing brand caps, T-shirts, key rings and other re­lated mer­chan­dise.

De­vel­oped by the Cul­tural Cre­ative Of­fice of the China Ship­build­ing In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, th­ese Liaon­ing- re­lated mer­chan­dise all fea­ture the ship’s badge in one form or another. The China Ship­build­ing In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter is a sub­or­di­nate unit of the China Ship­build­ing In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion, which re­con­struct- ed the for­mer Soviet ves­sel af­ter it was bought from Ukraine. Ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary news site mil.news.sina.com.cn, T-shirts with the air­craft car­rier’s pen­nant num­ber, 16, sold out com­pletely dur­ing the Liaon­ing’s visit to the city, while caps and belts also proved very pop­u­lar. Zhang Yan, di­rec­tor of the Cul­tural Cre­ative Of­fice, told the Global Times that the mer­chan­dise that sold well all had some­thing in com­mon – they were all items that could be used in daily life. “But more im­por­tant fac­tors are the charm this Chi­nese air­craft car­rier pos­sesses and the love peo­ple have for the moth­er­land,” she noted. Set up in 2013, the Cul­tural Cre­ative Of­fice aims to pro­mote China’s naval cul­ture through sim­ple prod­ucts that or­di­nary cit­i­zens will en­joy. While there are a num­ber of peo­ple in China in­ter­ested in mil­i­tary “naval ves­sels or ma­rine equip­ment, th­ese items are far re­moved from peo­ple’s daily lives. How­ever, through th­ese de­riv­a­tive prod­ucts, peo­ple have a much eas­ier time learn­ing about China’s naval cul­ture,” Zhang said, adding that they also sell a stuffed toy mas­cot of China’s manned deep-sea re­search sub­mersible the Jiao­long, which has proved very pop­u­lar among chil­dren.

While this mer­chan­dise may not look like much, they pos­sess a deeper sig­nif­i­cance for Chi­nese. For in­stance, Zhang ex­plained that sailors will of­ten ex­change the caps for their ship, such as the Liaon­ing cap, with sailors from other ves­sels.

While his team only con­sists of 10 peo­ple, Zhang said that the of­fice has high re­quire­ments for em­ploy­ees when it comes to artis­tic abil­ity and knowl­edge about naval cul­ture.

Zhang em­pha­sized that de­sign­ing prod­ucts is not as easy as it seems.

“Many peo­ple will nat­u­rally think to use blue for th­ese prod­ucts, but only our se­nior de­signer goes that ex­tra step to think of whether to use navy blue or air force blue,” she said.

Look­ing to get more in­volved in the mar­ket, the Cul­tural Cre­ative Of­fice has reg­is­tered for a store on Taobao, China’s largest on­line shop­ping web­site, and is ne­go­ti­at­ing the li­cens­ing rights for their mer­chan­dise with pri­vate com­pa­nies.

Another rea­son for the move is that the of­fice has no­ticed a few copy­cat prod­ucts be­ing sold, a ma­jor­ity of which are poorly made.

“We do not want such crudely made prod­ucts to ruin our rep­u­ta­tion,” Zhang said.

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Zhang Yan holds a plaque fea­tur­ing the badge for China’s Liaon­ing air­craft car­rier.

Photos: Li Hao/GT

Left: A pop-up card fea­tur­ing the Jiao­long, China’s manned deep-sea re­search sub­mersible Be­low: Caps with the Liaon­ing air­craft car­rier logo

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