Surge in U.S. flag orders a boon to China

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Is purchasing a U.S. flag now a "patriotic" activity, unless you insist on it being "Made in U.S.A."?

Hyperlink: http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=7&id=82533

Surge in U.S. flag orders a boon to China

by Lee Chyen Yee

Saturday, September 22, 2001 at 20:30 JST

SHANGHAI The Shanghai Meilihua Flag Company is normally busy this time of year, its scores of workers printing, sewing and trimming tens of thousands of red and yellow flags for China's National Day holiday on October 1. But for nearly two weeks, the textile dying, drying and sewing machines have been whirring around the clock, churning out an endless stream of red, white and blue to fuel a surge in demand from Americans for the Stars and Stripes flag.

Wu Guomin, office manager at Meilihua, or the "beautiful" flag company in Chinese, said the flurry of orders started almost immediately after the Sept 11 attacks that destroyed the New York's World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon in Washington. "Ever since the attacks, we've received stacks of orders for the flag and our workers are working round the clock so that we can deliver the goods on time," said Wu. "We don't normally work on weekends, but now there is no way we get to catch a breath," he said.

Flags have been snapped up across the United States since last Tuesday's deadly attacks, which left more than 6,000 people dead or missing. Retailers expect demand for the U.S. flags to hit a level unseen since the 1991 Gulf War. Last Tuesday, Wal-Mart Stores Inc sold 116,000 U.S. flags, nearly 20 times the amount sold the same day a year earlier. Kroger Co, the largest U.S. grocery chain, sold out of flags. Chinese companies are now struggling to keep up with this patriotic spike in demand for the U.S. flag. Meilihua's orders surged several times to 500,000 flags from tiny hand-held versions to as big as six-by-nine feet.

Guo said the factory designated half of its roughly 200 employees to work exclusively on U.S. flags, while the rest continued with the rush of orders of Chinese flags. At the dimly lit factory in the northern suburbs of Shanghai, workers in light blue uniforms meticulously inspect the continuous sheets of flags to ensure the red stripes are in the right shade and stars well defined in the blue background. Up in the four-story factory office, a group of managers and supervisors discuss their emergency plans for production.

While Guo was disturbed by the attacks on the United States, he acknowledges the surge in activity at Meilihua has little to do with the spirit of Betsy Ross, said to have sewn the first U.S. flag during the American revolution. "What has happened in the United States is really terrible and terrorism is bad for the world," Guo said. "But we try not to have too much political attachment to what we are doing. What we are doing here is strictly business only." (Reuters News)

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