In a recent CCTV news program, Chinese President Xi Jinping wore a black down jacket with a national flag on the left chest and surprisingly, a logo of Anta Sports (02020.HK) on the right.
In fact, Chinese leaders rarely wear outfits or use something with an obvious logo in public.
The news clip was about Xi’s visit to the 2022 winter Olympic site in Zhangjiakou in Hebei province.
In addition to urging officials to do a good hosting job of the international sport event, Xi is apparently keen to use it as an opportunity to revitalize the northeastern Chinese economy.
Long suffering from the sluggish activity of old-economy sectors such as mining and heavy industries, northeastern China has been the worst performing region. Snow tourism could be the solution.
“There should be clear positioning of this region for future development. Rather than developing into a large-scale comprehensive metropolitan area, Chongli should be built into a ski destination with a strong local character,” China Daily quoted Xi as saying.
Chongli county is the proposed venue for snowboarding and freestyle skiing in 2022.
“The post-Olympics operation of the facilities should be considered beforehand given that many Olympic host cities face challenges with venues left unused after the event,” Xi said.
Northeast China regions are covered in ice and snow all year long. These could be an excellent location for ski resorts. Yet related infrastructure has been limited.
As living standards improve, skiing has been catching up with the middle class and the rich.
Most of them prefer to go to Japan or Korea to enjoy the winter sport. The government wants them to spend their ski vacations locally instead.
Ski tourism on one hand can boost the local economy. It can also ease the drain on the country’s foreign reserves, a pressing issue lately.
Local authorities have earmarked numerous sites for development into resorts and have been encouraging the public to participate in winter sports of all sorts.
By 2025, China aims to have more than 800 ski resorts and over 5,000 professional ski coaches. It’s expected that more than 300 million people will take up the sport and create an industry worth over 1 trillion yuan.
Back to the Anta logo on Xi’s jacket, many are compelled to ask why Anta and not other sportswear brands or companies specializing in down wear such as Bosideng International Holdings (03998.HK)?
In fact, Xi has served as chief governor of Fujian province, where Anta is based, for 15 years.
And he had visited Anta and have a good knowledge of the firm, according to the company’s chief operating officer, Lai Shixian.
Another possible reason is that Anta has been supportive of the government’s drive to promote “snow economics”.”
The leading sportswear has produced a wide range of ski wear and gear over the past two years.
It is also a sponsor of the national team in the winter Olympic Games. In addition, it acquired the exclusive distribution rights for Japanese ski wear brand Descente in China last year.
The Xi endorsement led to a small rally of Anta’s share price on Tuesday.
Some said that a less than one minute ad slot in CCTV news costs tens of millions of yuan. The 15-minute Xi coverage effectively saved Anta a huge amount of advertising dollars.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 25
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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