Enterprises showcase wide range of products at Qatar tournament
Although failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals soccer tournament now underway in Qatar, China is making a huge contribution to the largest global sporting event.
Chinese products, infrastructure projects and sponsors have won praise from appreciative fans and potential customers.
In recent months, Luo Yang, a sales manager at the overseas business unit of Higer Bus Co, a bus and truck manufacturer based in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, has kept a close eye on the 1,815 buses the company delivered to Qatar last year.
These vehicles operate shuttle services for the thousands of fans, officials and journalists from different countries during the tournament, which is being staged from Nov 20 to Dec 18.
"After the World Cup, the buses will be used to take children to and from school," Luo said, adding that child monitoring systems installed in the vehicles sound an alert when a bus arrives at its destination. The driver moves through the vehicle to ensure the children leave safely, before pressing a button to turn off the alert.
Higer's rival, Zhengzhou Yutong Group Co, a commercial vehicle maker in Zhengzhou, Henan province, exported more than 1,500 buses to Qatar for the World Cup, including 888 electric-powered ones. It is the first time that new energy buses from China have been used at a major global sporting event.
A range of Chinese items are available at the tournament, including key rings, horns, flags, clothing and shoes from Yiwu, Zhejiang, and Jinjiang, Fujian province, as well as fireworks from Liuyang, Hunan province.
Market observers said the abundance of such products is due to China's industrial upgrading boom, well-developed supply chains, and green transformation.
China International Marine Containers (Group), based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, was responsible for building Stadium 974 in Qatar, which was assembled from 974 containers and can be easily dismantled.
Air conditioners for 100 security check centers at the tournament venues were provided by China's Midea Group, and the communication facilities at stadiums and the network equipment for the joint command and control center were made in China.
Zhao Xinli, dean of the advertising institute at Communication University of China in Beijing, said that if the elements provided by China for the Qatar event were contesting a "global manufacturing World Cup", then "Team China" would surely be a popular winner.
Xiao Shuhong, a professor of sports economics at Beijing Sport University, said China's contribution to the World Cup reflects the Chinese market's growing significance to the global economy. Held every four years, the tournament will considerably boost growth of the global sports economy by creating business opportunities for export-oriented companies in China and other parts of the world, Xiao added.
Boosted by their complementary trade structure and the World Cup, the total trade value between China and Qatar rose by 64.7 percent year-on-year to $21.66 billion between January and October, according to China's General Administration of Customs.
At Lusail Stadium, north of Doha, the Qatari capital, Unilumin Group, a high-definition screen manufacturer headquartered in Shenzhen, installed two 70-square-meter light-emitting diode, or LED, screens showing the score during matches. The 190-sq-m stadium, which has a capacity of 80,000, is due to host the tournament final on Dec 18.
Yang Jun, president for the Qatar market at Unilumin Group's international sales center, said that as the Gulf nation has high temperatures and strong sunlight, the LED displays used for the World Cup better disperse heat. They also have a higher brightness level than other screens, Yang added.
"The Qatar World Cup is a microcosm of Chinese brands going global," he said, adding that the company is ready to receive more orders for the Asian Cup soccer tournament, which will be held in Qatar next year.
Similar views were expressed by Zhang Feng, vice-president of Avant Sports Industrial Co, another sports equipment and facility manufacturer based in Shenzhen, which supplied tens of thousands of movable and retractable seats for the eight World Cup venues in Qatar.
Zhang said that by aiming to play a dynamic role in smart output, China's manufacturing sector is relying on greener and digital technologies to further compete with global rivals.
"As Qatar is still relatively hot at this time of year, we used a new type of cooling material for the seats, which can reduce the temperature of the seat surface by 9 to 17 degrees. These seats are expected to have a lifetime of more than a decade," Zhang added.
Even without the presence of the Chinese team at the tournament, Chinese sponsors are enthusiastic about the Qatar World Cup, and they have been warmly welcomed by the host country.
According to GlobalData, a data analytics and consulting company based in London, 20 Chinese companies have provided more sponsorship for the 2022 World Cup than rivals from other countries. These companies rank top globally with spending of nearly $1.4 billion, exceeding the $1.1 billion outlay from US companies.
The Chinese companies are spearheaded by four official FIFA sponsors — the commercial property developer Wanda Group, home appliance manufacturer Hisense Group, smartphone producer Vivo, and dairy brand Mengniu.
Wanda Group is one of FIFA's seven corporate partners, along with Coca-Cola, Adidas, Hyundai-Kia, Qatar Airways, Qatar Energy and VISA. GlobalData said Wanda Group signed an $850 million 15-year deal with FIFA, which will expire at the 2030 World Cup.
Li Pengcheng, vice-president of Mengniu, said the Qatar World Cup will witness the release of suppressed demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that such an influential event will help unleash global consumption potential.
In addition to launching World Cup-themed ice cream in team colors for the tournament, Li said Mengniu will introduce more products to expand its presence in the Gulf nation in coming years.
Ni Xudong, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer at Vivo, said: "Soccer has the power to bring people together. We believe that innovation can help fans build a community and share exciting World Cup experiences with everyone across the globe, whether they are watching the games at a stadium or enjoying the experience from afar."
According to Vivo, with their presence at popular sports events around the world, Chinese brands are entering the international market in a more imperceptible way, and resonating emotionally with global users.
Li Jiang, executive director at Yutang Sports (Beijing) Co, a sports intelligence and marketing company, said: "World Cup sponsorship from a large number of Chinese companies not only demonstrates China's economic power, but also clearly shows the rapid transformation of the nation's manufacturing industry. The tournament offers these companies an advanced stage to showcase their products."
Song Xiangqing, vice-president of the Commerce Economy Association of China, which is headquartered in Beijing, said that even though it costs quite a lot to be a sponsor, connecting with the World Cup is the most direct way for Chinese companies to promote their brands and sell products in the global market.
Lusail Stadium, which is scheduled to host 10 matches during the World Cup, was jointly built by Qatari construction companies and China Railway Construction Corp. It is the first time a Chinese company has built a World Cup venue, and the stadium also features on a Qatari banknote.
Meanwhile, the Al-Qasar 800-megawatt photovoltaic plant designed and built by Power Construction Corp of China, or PowerChina, went into operation in the middle of last month, helping Qatar's commitment to host a green World Cup.
Li Jun, PowerChina's onsite manager for this project, said, "Chinese equipment was used for all the photovoltaic parts, accounting for more than 60 percent of the total project investment — further enhancing the market share of Chinese companies in the Middle East."
Lin Jiang, a professor of economics at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the Guangdong provincial capital, said the products, services and infrastructure projects Chinese companies have brought to the World Cup demonstrate the nation's industrial advantages in many areas, including the production of electric vehicles and photovoltaic equipment.
In addition to large companies, manufacturers in Yiwu, China's small commodities hub in Zhejiang, are also showcasing their growing influence during the World Cup.
From soccer balls and trophy ornaments to horns and whistles, the Yiwu Sporting Goods Association estimates that Yiwu accounts for some 70 percent of the tournament's peripheral goods market this year.
Wu Xiaoming, board chairman of Yiwu Aokai Sports Goods Co, an authorized soccer ball manufacturer for the 2022 World Cup, said the company, which has a production capacity of 800 such balls a day, had shipped 300,000 of them to Qatar and other parts of the world by the end of last month.
Many clients from the Middle East, Europe and Latin America are placing additional orders to meet soaring domestic demand, Wu added.
"Unlike orders placed in May, which were delivered by container ships, the new orders will be delivered by air freight services, as were the 2,000 soccer balls we shipped to Argentina last week," Wu said.
According to Yiwu Customs, driven by surging demand before the World Cup, companies in Yiwu exported 4.85 billion yuan ($677 million) worth of sporting goods in the first 10 months of this year, a year-on-year rise of nearly 39 percent.
Zhang Yongjun, a researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges in Beijing, said that amid the slowdown in industrial chains due to the pandemic, geopolitical and geo-economic headwinds, China has accelerated its manufacturing industry upgrading and made positive contributions to global industrial chain and supply chain stability.