Across China: Plush toys sew new urbanites' prosperous life

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XI'AN, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Li Yinzhi, 38, glows with happiness as she stitches layers for plush toys in a workshop in Ankang, a city in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The new urbanite resettled in Ankang from an inhospitable mountainous area and found a secure job she is good at in a residential community. It accommodates former farmers amid government-support poverty eradication efforts.

"[The job] is on my doorstep. While having a stable income, I can take care of my children and parents," said Li, a mother of two.

She now earns more than 50,000 yuan (around 7,737 U.S. dollars) annually at the workshop. "It's much better than my days working far away from home in Ningbo seven years ago."

Starting in late 2017, when the plush-toy industry relocated to the city from Changzhou in east China's Jiangsu Province, Ankang has seen the rise of 569 companies based on toy-making within three years, said Wu Dalin, director of the administrative committee for the Hengkou demonstration zone in Ankang.

He added that the businesses now generate an annual output of close to 2.8 billion yuan and create more than 12,000 jobs, including 3,000 for the once poor households like Li's.

Amid China's poverty reduction drive, approximately 1 million poor people, who lived in inhospitable, poor, scattered mountainous regions in Ankang, moved to new urban residential communities, said Zhao Junmin, Party chief of Ankang.

"The gathering of populations provides fertile soil for labor-intensive industries like toy making," Zhao said.

The city seized the opportunity from industrial relocation in east China and offered incentive packages to toy-making businesses.

Despite the advantage of lower labor costs, Ankang, like other places in west China, was throttled by high transportation expenses in developing export-oriented industries like toy making.

Wu, who has been coordinating the relocation of the toy-making industry from Changzhou to Hengkou, would not allow the hope of enriching the newly-settled poor in their urban homes to be dashed. His team went around to explore potential partnerships to lower the transportation cost.

The persistence was fruitful. In May 2020, the dry port set up by the Shanghai International Port (Group) Co., Ltd. began operation in Ankang. It turned the city into an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by rail to the Shanghai port, where plush toys are shipped to global consumers.

Later the year, the city saw the departure of its first dedicated freight train heading to Europe by way of Xi'an, another route connecting it with the international market.

To make the industry more competitive, Ankang extended the industrial chain by introducing a production line making polypropylene cotton for stuffing the plush toys.

"The annual output has surpassed 20,000 tonnes, providing far more than sufficient supplies to local toy-making businesses," said Wu.

Ankang has bigger plans for the industry and is poised to make plush toys enable even better lives for Li Yinzhi and her fellow urbanites.

"In the next three years, we will work to boost creative industries inspired by the toy-related culture and make them one of the pillars of the local economy," said Zhao Junmin. Enditem

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