What does an obscure Chinese county have to do with the ongoing FIFA World Cup tournament?
Not so much, except that millions of national flags flown at stadiums and on the streets in Brazil all came from there.
Yongkang, a county-level city in eastern Zhejiang province, shipped all the national flags for the World Cup, reportedly almost 10 million of them, according to Southern Weekend.
They were made by a husband-and-wife factory called Bisheng (Victory in Mandarin) in a shabby four-storey factory-cum-village house.
Bisheng is one of the largest flag makers in China.
The couple has been following the matches on TV since the mega event kicked off Thursday last week not because they’re football diehards but because when the round of 16 starts, there will be a whole lot of new orders.
That means the factory will be operating around the clock to fill the orders and ship them to Brazil by air before the next stage of the tournament begins.
Like Bisheng, Zhejiang has some of the world’s largest manufacturers of daily necessities and small commodities.
In the past few years, Bisheng has been supplying flags to major international events including the 2012 London Olympics, Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee and the UEFA European championship.
It also makes the Hong Kong flag and the Taiwanese flag although the latter is not officially recognized by the mainland.
In May, Bisheng got its first World Cup order for two million flags and since September, it has been humming with activity to meet demand from Europe and North America.
Production lines will keep running during the World Cup until early July. The business is expected to make 15 million yuan (US$2.4 million) in net profit.
Finding enough workers is becoming a problem. Zhejiang itself is struggling from a fall in migrant workers.
So Bisheng is hiring hundreds of peasants from neighboring villages, usually women in their forties and fifties. And as long as they can muster the basic flag-making techniques, it doesn’t matter that most of them have no idea what the World Cup is all about.
Many of them are astonished to learn that the flags they’re making are shipped to South America and football fans will hail each other and the world with the flags they make.
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