Smartphone gift dials up new trends

Updated: 2014-09-19 03:38

(China Daily)

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When State leaders go abroad on high-profile visits, what's not on the official agenda may be as widely watched as the formal functions.

The gifts they give and their wardrobe choices can affect the status of those products as well as fashion trends. They may also send subtle signals about their country.

That is why a Chinese ZTE smartphone made ripples across cyberspace when President Xi Jinping gave one as a gift during a visit to Tajikistan this month.

Ordinarily, gifts on these occasions include silk products, porcelain or even a giant panda, anything closely associated with the traditional image of China.

But Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, have been making a gradual departure from the old path.

On Wednesday, during a visit to India, Xi sent a custom-made vegan birthday cake to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a long-time vegetarian, in celebration of his 64th birthday.

Xi's other gifts include a chess set made of Chinese jade and a traditional embroidery piece.

On another visit, Xi and Peng have given a box set of disks containing Chinese movies and a television series, with subtitles in the local languages (in this case Spanish and Portuguese, as they were traveling in Latin America.)

Peng gave African hosts cosmetics made by a Shanghai company founded in 1931 - the same brand as the pearl earrings she wore during an appearance in Tanzania last year.

Peng's wardrobe has been scrutinized by the Chinese public since she became first lady, and people have been pleasantly surprised that she eschewed imported brands, famous as they may be.

Coincidentally, she was spotted using a ZTE smartphone to take photos on a visit to Germany in March.

The home electronics and communications devices industry seems to be elated by the choice of gifts.

Industry publications have been gushing about "the window that could be opened for foreign consumers to understand our product chain".

"It also reflects the Chinese government's desire to turn our country from the world's factory floor into a smart manufacturing hub," one article adds.

If a smartphone does not quickly conjure up China, remember that there are nearly 630 million in use in the country, more than the next five top markets combined. Domestic brands enjoy a penetration rate well above 50 percent. ZTE may be a relatively small vendor, with 3 percent of the local market, but others like Xiaomi and Lenovo are already in a league with the world's largest manufacturers.

- Gao Yuan