A peek into the Chinese factory that makes a fortune from Donald Trump masks
The US president-elect may threaten trade war, but some Chinese firms love him as their business of making Trump memorabilia have done a roaring trade exporting to the US
It was a tough year in 2016 for China’s exporters due to tepid global demand, but some Chinese firms bucked the trend thanks to US president-elect Donald Trump.
Shenzhen Yongtaida Latex Crafts, a 2,000-square metre factory hidden in a dilapidated industrial park in Shenzhen, was preparing to close its production line last weekend ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday after a busy 12 months.
The 16-year-old factory is one of the country’s biggest latex mask manufacturers and it has exported more than 200,000 Trump masks over the past year, mainly to the US and Japan.
Watch: The Chinese factory that makes Donald Trump masks
During the presidential election, Trump heavily criticised China, claiming it had stolen jobs from the US.
Ironically, his high-profile campaign provided a huge boost to Chinese factories producing celebrity-based souvenirs and helped create jobs on the mainland.
In the months after the US election primaries in February last year, a variety of merchandise from Trump wigs to toilet paper printed with his face, or “Dump Trump” slogans have hit the market.
The popularity of Trump-themed, made-in-China products over Hillary Clinton merchandise led Chinese media to say the sales of the goods were a “barometer” that correctly predicted the result of the US presidential election.
Yongtaida first started operations in Jiangxi province making Halloween costumes before moving to Shenzhen.
Zhou Ailing, who runs the family business , said the success of their Trump masks was totally unexpected.
Production began in March last year and orders ranging from hundreds to thousands kept coming in from US importers as the presidential race neared its end and Trump was finally elected president.
Trump masks – one with natural skin tone and another with a redder hue – outsold all other celebrity masks made at Zhou’s factory, including likenesses of Clinton and US President Barack Obama.
“The Clinton mask sold better in the beginning, but soon fell behind. We sold about 10 Trump masks for every Clinton mask,” she said.
At peak production last November, the factory hired dozens more people to work long hours at night to make and package Trump masks, with trucks waiting outside to pick up the products smelling of fresh latex before they were shipped to US distributers and retailers by air.
One Trump mask, which cost about US$2 to US$3 for a factory like Zhou’s to make, can sell for up to US$8, according to Landy Xiao, a manager at the Shenzhen X-Merry Toy Company.
Another company based in Zhejiang province in eastern China has exported 50,000 toilet rolls with Trump’s face printed on them since the beginning of last year.
A salesman at Honglida Commodity Manufacturing Company based in Yiwu, said: “We expect them to sell well for another four years when Trump is in office. Americans bought Trump toilet paper mainly to make fun of him.”
The latest hit Trump product is an inflatable balloon shaped like a golden rooster sporting the president-elect’s distinctive hairstyle.
A sculpture of a “Trump rooster” outside a shopping mall in Shanxi province hit the headlines in China and factory in Jiaxing in Zhejiang soon began to offer balloons in a similar design, ranging from two to 20 metres high.
Yongtaida Latex Crafts will be moving its operations to neighbouring Dongguan after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Zhou, however, mused that Trump’s election victory might not all be good news for her firm if he makes good on his threat to slap 45 per cent tariffs on Chinese exports to the US.
“All we can do is ensure the quality of products and deliver them on time,” she said.
“But I believe our domestic sales will grow gradually.. particularly when young people are more into Halloween.”