Across China: A children’s wear entrepreneur’s “lucky” experiences after China’s reform and opening-up

HANGZHOU, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Although Yang Jianping is 50, he still prefers to be viewed as a youth and has never felt he is getting old.

“I am only 50 years old. You know, I am the executive vice president of a local young entrepreneurs association,” said Yang, a local of Zhili Town in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province.

Meanwhile, Yang runs a children’s wear factory and a fabric wholesale company.

Born in the late 1960s, Yang said he is a “lucky dog” because he lives in good times of the country as China started its reform and opening-up in 1978.

In the early 1980s, Zhili was still a very backward small town that did not even have a paved road. Yang found a job at a local post office after graduation from middle school at that time.

In 1989, Yang borrowed 10,000 yuan (1,444.6 U.S. dollars) to start his children wear business. “I was so lucky to become the first batch of entrepreneurs in my town. I earned 20,000 yuan during the first year of operation, and it has gone smoothly ever since,” Yang said.

Talking about why he started a business in children’s wear, Yang recalled that thanks to the 1990 Asian Games held in Beijing, people in Zhili who used to produce pillows and quilt covers began to produce clothing for children.

“We used the cloth for curtains to make dresses and added the logo of the Asian Games. The dresses became extremely popular at that time,” Yang said.

Yang said his success was also a result of the good policies enjoyed by the town in the early 1990s. In August 1992, an economic open zone was established in Zhili. Three years later, Zhili was selected as a pilot town for comprehensive reform by the central government.

With the support of these favorable policies, talented people started to swarm into the town and started their businesses, which boosted the town to become prosperous as well.

Yang said he was lucky enough to be the first person to have a telephone in his village, and he was also the first person who bought a Honda motorbike and later, the first to own a private car.

“At that time, a Honda motorbike cost more than 50,000 yuan. Riding on a motorbike was super cool,” Yang said.

Not only Yang but also the workers in his factory began living better lives. “At the very beginning, there were only eight workers in the plant. They lived with me and even shared a bed with me,” Yang said.

Now, all the workers in Yang’s factory have their own apartments with nice bathrooms and air conditioners. Most of them earn a monthly salary of over 10,000 yuan.

Running the business of children’s wear for about 30 years, what makes Yang feel proud is that he has inspired nearly 100 local entrepreneurs. Some of them run factories in Zhili while others have their startups in their hometowns.

Today, Zhili, home to 13,000 children’s wear enterprises, has become a famous town for children’s wear manufacturing. In 2017, the output of children’s wear from the town totaled 1.3 billion with sales of 50 billion yuan.

“I am thankful for the good times we have had over the past decades where Zhili and I are lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of China’s reform and opening-up,” Yang said.

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