Workers at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology prepare traditional Chinese-style outfits for participants in the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting held on Monday and Tuesday in Beijing.
Chinese silk company uses APEC platform to highlight global plans
Riding on the back of endorsements from global leaders during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' meeting in Beijing, Chinese silk major High Fashion Silk (Zhejiang) Co Ltd is looking to spread its reach beyond the nation and enhance its standing as an icon of Chinese culture, a company official said on Tuesday.
High Fashion Silk, a leading woven silk and knitting fabric producer from Xinchang in Zhejiang province, rocketed to instant fame after top global leaders wore the company's glitzy New Chinese Suits during the APEC welcome ceremony in Beijing on Monday night.
"We are honored to be the sole fabric provider for the APEC meeting," said Lin Ping, chairman and chief executive officer of High Fashion Silk. "China is the cradle of cultivated silk and we hope the endorsement from global leaders and their spouses will lead to more taking to Chinese-style fashion."
Lin said the company had offered four lots of fabric totaling 6,000 meters for the APEC meeting. Two sets were made from the top mulberry silk, while the other two were a blend of top mulberry silk and wool.
"Our focus is to transform and become a cultural and creative company, based on supportive policies and our own advantages," said Lin.
According to Lin, the entire fabric-making process for the APEC took over a month to complete. "We traveled on the ancient Silk Road to draw inspiration for colors and designs. The finished product was achieved after 60 processes spread over one month.
"The New Chinese Suit stands for peace, happiness and beauty," Lin said.
The fabric designs for the APEC meeting represent China's commitment and vision to be a global leader in quality, he said. The same vision has now been translated into the commercial parlance of haute couture, which refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing.
"We are planning to open several stores in Beijing soon," said Lin, adding that in Shanghai, the company has inked cooperation agreements with Donghua University (formerly China Textile University).
High Fashion Silk posted flat revenue growth of 1 billion yuan ($164 million) last year and a net profit of 30 million yuan during the same period. During the past three years, its total output in terms of value exceeded 2 billion yuan, with $80 million in exports.
The company has an annual production capacity of 10 million meters of woven silk, 1,000 metric tons of silk knitting fabrics, 3 million pieces of home textiles and 3 million silk neckties.
The company is also looking to improve its technology and innovative skills by using its 38 patents and advanced equipment from Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan.
The main brands, designers and retailers it cooperates with are the Guangzhou-based Exception de Mixmind, Uniqlo Co Ltd from Japan, and Calvin Klein Inc, Diane von Furstenberg and Macy's Inc from the United States.
Besides High Fashion Group, the parent company of High Fashion Silk, other leading silk companies in China include Wujiang Dingsheng Silk Co Ltd in Jiangsu province, Hangzhou-based Wensli Group, Zhejiang Jiaxin Silk Co Ltd and Jiangsu Xinmin Textile Science and Technology Co Ltd.
China's exports of genuine silk products in 2013 totaled $3.5 billion, up 3 percent, while imports rose 3.5 percent to $260 million, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
Shanghai-based CharColn Consulting said the value of Chinese silk products accounts for less than 0.5 percent of the nation's entire textile industry, but these are high-value products with a strong cultural aspects.
While China is known as the "world's factory," seemingly capable of making everything, semiconductor chips have been conspicuously absent on the "Made in China" list.
Statistics show that China's chip imports in 2013 grew 20.5 percent to reach 231.3 billion US dollars, exceeding imports of other goods, including crude oil. In fact, they have consistently topped China's import list over the past decade.
Considered "the heart" of all electronic devices, chips are vital for developing the broader information industry. Experts have called for more government support and industry innovation, as prolonged underdevelopment of China's chip sector could derail the country's economic upgrade and blunt its competitiveness.
SMALL CHIP, BIG BUSINESS
Chips are widely used in computers, consumer electronic devices, automotive electronics and Internet communications. Though small in size -- and getting smaller as technology advances -- chips are high in value and represent an important link in the information industry chain.
"There are several stages in the production of a semiconductor chip, including its design, manufacturing, assembly and testing," said Zou Xuecheng, a professor of semiconductor engineering at Wuhan-based Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
A semiconductor chip with production value of 1 US dollar translates into 10 US dollars in growth for the related information industry, and adds 100 US dollars to a country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Zou said, citing IMF research.
"With China's consumption of chips exceeding 200 billion US dollars, it means 20 trillion in GDP growth for the world's economy," Zou added.
However, China has failed to make gains in the chip production process. Though China's semiconductor use accounts for more than half of the global market, the country is overly dependent on foreign chip suppliers.
The market share for chips made by domestic manufacturers is merely 10 percent in China, according to Li Ping, vice general manager of XMC, a semiconductor manufacturer based in Wuhan.
Though 77 percent of cell phones sold on the global market are made in China, only 3 percent of chips in those phones are from Chinese suppliers, Li added.
According to a research report issued last year by the State Council, China's cabinet, China has the capacity to produce around 1.2 billion cell phones, 350 million computers and 130 million color TVs a year. Yet, Chinese companies have been reduced to worker bees for the international companies that take the lion's share of profits through patent fees on chips.
China's industry insiders lament being mired in a vicious circle: companies cannot gain a competitive edge and increase profits without owning key technologies, while meager profits limit their ability to invest in research and development.
Countries such as the United States and Japan have long attached great importance to the semiconductor industry, promoting it as a strategic sector with huge research expenditures funneled into the field.
The world's leading chip makers spend lavishly on research and expanding their production capacity. Statistics show that in 2012, Samsung invested 14.2 billion US Dollars and Intel spent 12.5 billion US Dollars.
Those amounts dwarfed what Chinese players can earmark for chip research. The fledgling industry is faced with scanty resources, even with government help. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China's biggest chip maker, is only able to spend 100 million US dollars on research and production expansion a year.
Financial aid alone, however, cannot pull Chinese chip makers up, as the sophisticated industry also calls for top talent.
"The key is an abundance of talented researchers, but we have seen an exodus of talent in recent years," said Yang Zhiyong, general manager of the electronics division of Wuhan-based FiberHome Technologies Group.
Yang Chunshi, professor at Xiamen University, said research institutions should focus on developing technologies that are suitable for industrial applications instead of a blind pursuit of high-end technology. He added that companies should also take the initiative and embrace new technologies, as dated production modes spell trouble.
Ma Xinqiang, Chair of China's HGTECH, believes that with patience and persistence, China's chip industry can thrive as the ongoing "Third Industrial revolution" powered by the mobile Internet, the Internet of Things and cloud computing will unleash great potential.
Experts share Ma's optimism. They predict that as the volume of China's domestic chip industry is expected to reach 160 billion US dollars next year, the industry will see more positive changes.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi Inc. is talking to investors and banks to raise about 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in its fifth round of financing, local media reported.
The fundraising target is roughly 1.5 billion U.S. dollars, which would be the largest investment (excluding IPO) raised by any Chinese company backed by venture capital, financial news website Jiemian of the Shanghai United Media Group reported on Saturday.
One of the investors is said to be DST Global, a London-based investment firm that focuses on Internet companies, Jiemian said in the report.
Xiaomi, currently the world's third-largest smartphone maker after Samsung and Apple, will use most of the money raised to develop video content for Xiaomi TV, according to the report.
Xiaomi has said it will spend about 1 billion U.S. dollars to expand its own TV content. It hired Chen Tong, former editor-in-chief of popular news portal Sina.com, to revamp its Internet video business.
Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun said that Xiaomi shipped 18 million smartphones in the third quarter, an increase of 18 percent from the previous quarter.
For the first nine months, Xiaomi, whose name means "millet" in Chinese, shipped a total of 44 million units, Lei said.
Xiaomi was founded in April 2010 by Lei and his friends in Zhongguancun, Beijing's technology hub, which has been called "China's Silicon Valley." Xiaomi's first smartphone debuted on Aug. 16, 2011.
In another development, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that Xiaomi Inc., which is valued at 50 billion U.S. dollars, is aiming for an initial public offering as early as next year.
"Xiaomi is one of the large Chinese technology companies that would tap the IPO market next year," the newspaper quoted a source as saying. "Hong Kong investors seem to be more receptive of hardware than software firms, making the city the likely IPO destination for Xiaomi."
The current market appetite for technology firms with a clear growth outlook, such as Alibaba Group, is an incentive to do it soon, the newspaper said.
Xiaomi is seen by investors as the most likely candidate to become the next "Chinese IT legend" after Alibaba, which completed a 25-billion-dollar IPO in the United States in September.
Global market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC) said in its latest report that Xiaomi jumped onto the list of top 5 manufacturers for the first time at the number 3 position thanks to its focus on China and adjacent markets, which resulted in triple-digit year-over-year growth.
In the third quarter of this year, Xiaomi's global market share stood at 5.3 percent, following Samsung's 23.8 percent and Apple's 12 percent, according to IDC.
There has been a surge in the use of foreign language apps accessed by smartphones, according to a survey, with women in particular keen to be taught via their handset.
The study, carried out jointly by the country's leading Internet education provider Hujiang.com and the online education platform of Baidu Inc, shows the most popular customers are the female, college students or white-collar workers, under the age of 30?a profile which accounted for 80 percent of users of the services.
In a sizeable snapshot of 25,000 users of Internet-based education products, 58.4 percent were women.
"The young people are generally keen to improve themselves through multiple ways and resources," said Dong Xiaoliang, director of mobile business department of Hujiang.
Some 44.7 percent of mobile education users were based in second-tier cities, 26.5 percent came from first-tier cities, and nearly 30 percent subscribed from third- and fourth-tier cities.
The survey found that laptop or computer-based online education was prevalent in cities throughout the country and included a wider cross-section of society, said Dong.
"Compared with other areas, first-tier cities on the whole have more abundant educational resources available, both online and offline.
"Resources in second-, third- or fourth-tier cities are accessed from more sources."
Foreign language studies were by far the most popular type of course, with a dominant 89.3 percent of respondents, followed by those accessing courses in lifestyle and hobbies (13.8 percent), and career certification and examination (13.5 percent).
The report also revealed many were not deterred by cost, with nearly one-third of those surveyed saying they would happily spend 500 yuan ($82) or above, while 27.3 percent chose free offerings.
"In recent years people have got into the habit of making more payments for using their smartphones, helped by the increasing popularity of e-commerce apps," Dong said.
About half of those surveyed said they used their educational apps before they went to bed, with 38.8 percent gaining access to their course riding in an automobile and 37.6 percent during their lunch break.
The average weekly time studying on their mobile device was five hours, the report said.
A 26-year-old woman respondent named Qi Na was included in the study.
"Smartphone-based education has made studies more convenient and efficient," she said.
"For example, I can read English news through my mobile phone when I wait for a bus or take a break from work. And I don't have to take a book with me every day."
Li Xuhui, founder of the nonprofit online education website Kuxuexi, said smartphone-based Internet education is appealing especially to people who need to study at fragmented times.
"The innovation of Internet technology and the prevalence of PC and smartphones allow people to learn whenever they want and wherever they are," Li said, adding that mobile Internet education will become more common.
According to the China Online Education Report 2013-14, released by Internet consultancy iResearch Group, the online education market in China was worth around 84 billion yuan in 2013, a 19.9 percent increase on the previous year.
The latest industry estimates suggest the number of online learners is expected to grow to 120 million over the next three years.
Xiaomi Inc has become the world's third-largest smartphone vendor and taken the lead in China since entering the market only three years ago, research firms said yesterday.
Xiaomi won over consumers by offering them inexpensive models but with high-end features and selling them online. Globally, Xiaomi had a market share of 6 percent in the third quarter, just behind Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. Samsung dominated with 25 percent, but down from 35 percent a year earlier while Apple fell slightly to 12 percent, according to Strategy Analytics, a US-based research firm.
"Xiaomi was the star performer," Strategy Analytics' Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.
Other research firms including IDC and IHS iSuppli also put Xiaomi as the No. 3 player in the global smartphone market, ahead of domestic rivals Lenovo and Huawei.
Beijing-based Xiaomi expects to sell 60 million smartphones with revenue of 70-80 billion yuan (US$11-13 billion) this year after selling 26.1 million units in the first six months.
Evergrande Group, a Chinese private conglomerate involved in property development, agriculture and sports, launched an infant formula on Monday following its acquisition of New Zealand dairy producer Cowala Dairy Ltd. last month.
The Guangzhou-based group also plans to build a dairy manufacturing base in China to tap the lucrative market. Chinese consumers have preferred to buy foreign brands following a series of tainted milk scandals in recent years.
The infant formula product under the name Cowala will hit the market nationwide soon, according to an announcement at its launch ceremony on Monday.
The Evergrande Group, which runs China's most successful football club, Guangzhou Evergrandetaobao Football Club, appointed three players to serve as global promotion ambassadors for Cowala infant formula on Monday.
The group, established in 1997, made its fortune through real estate development, but has been diversifying its business in recent years by investing in agriculture, cultural tourism, dairy, livestock and sports.
The group's sales in 2013 reached 100.4 billion yuan (16 billion U.S. dollars), while sales in the first eight months of 2014 reached 90 billion yuan, according to its official website.
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