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Fujian town makes third of country's umbrellas

By ZHENG YIRAN in Beijing and HU MEIDONG in Fuzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-17

Dual-circulation development, tech innovation help Dongshi thrive over the years

1.jpegUmbrellas of various types and patterns are displayed in a showroom of a manufacturing enterprise in Jinjiang, Fujian province, in June 2022.  CHINA DAILY

Dongshi, a town in Jinjiang, East China's Fujian province, produces one out of three umbrellas nationwide, and one out of four globally. Two thirds of Chinese-made umbrella parts are also made there.

Dongshi, understandably nicknamed "Umbrella Town", is seeing orders rain down like cats and dogs, as it has developed an umbrella industrial chain worth more than 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion).

Dongshi's economic development and reform office said that in 2022, the town's total output value reached nearly 13 billion yuan. There were a total of over 470 umbrella manufacturing enterprises, producing around 560 million units annually.

Ding Jingtang, general manager of Haixia (Jinjiang) Umbrella Scientific Innovation Center, is a representative for umbrella entrepreneurs in Dongshi. In 2005, Ding came from his hometown in Hubei province to Jinjiang for work. He soon after joined an umbrella manufacturing firm as an administrative staffer, but actually knew next to nil about umbrella manufacturing at the time.

As it turned out, lady luck was on Ding's side, as a company's technical department was short of staff. Ding therefore gradually picked up on the job as if it were the art of umbrella making, and not long after realized that he was keenly interested in the craft. Sometimes, in order to fully wrap his head around a small detail in the umbrella-making process, he didn't clock out until 3 am or so. However, Ding enjoyed the work immensely.

In 2007, a foldable umbrella handle project completed by Ding and his team obtained a utility model patent. The project won the Jinjiang golden patent award in 2008.

"This was a great honor and encouragement for us. Afterward, everyone devoted more passion and yearned to conquer higher technological barriers in umbrella manufacturing," Ding recalled.

In 2015, the "self-opening and closing umbrella with safety protection functions" developed by Ding and his team won a China Patent Award — the first of its kind in Jinjiang. The umbrella, which garnered six invention patents, now helps the company earn tens of millions of yuan every year, and has become a flagship product. Three years later, another project developed by Ding and his team won another China Patent Award.

Eventually, a few leading umbrella manufacturers in Dongshi jointly funded the Haixia (Jinjiang) Umbrella Scientific Innovation Center, with Ding being among the shareholders.

The center mainly focuses on technological innovation, achievement transformation, testing, quality certification and product design. In the past years, the center has actively promoted research and development, helping umbrella manufacturing enterprises realize technology transfers and transactions, as well as intellectual property transfers and licensing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the center facilitated over 10 million yuan worth of technology transformation within the industry.

"In the past, we had to travel to Guangdong province, Shanghai and Beijing to complete a lot of tests. Now, the tests can be done at home, greatly lowering business costs. More importantly, the center is open to the whole umbrella manufacturing industry, which improves the efficiency of the sector, and lowers R&D costs," Ding said.

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