The Week in China: Cherry Fire Sale, Xiaomi’s Blood Rice Phones, Metallica Comes to Town and more

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China is the second largest economy in the world and every significant brand’s future is impacted by its growth (or collapse)—but who’s got the time?! Here’s the week’s reads that will make you look like a keen China observer in case you find yourself immersed in a cultural conversation.

This week: Audi romances Qixi… Xiaomi’s “Blood Rice”… “The Meat Shop”… Cleavage Creek… Disneyland Shanghai… Novartis… Ikea in trouble… blue jean pollution… “The Pickle Index”… 500,000 shoppers… and more.[more]

A Cowhearder and Seamstress Meet to Spend Money

Tuesday saw the Chinese celebration of Qixi (七夕), a romantic holiday based on the myth of the star-crossed love between a cowherder and a seamstress who fell in love but were cast into star constellations by a jealous goddess who used a hairpin to draw a river between the two. Once a year, a flock of magpies forms a bridge across which the two can meet. That day is Qixi, also called the Double Seven Festival or, sometimes, Chinese Valentine’s Day. It has become a retail bonanza in China with lovers cashing out on gifts for one another. Audi came up with one of the more creative ads to capitalize on the day.

Another popular product for Qixi was the Chaumet brand wristwatch co-branded with French actress Sophie Marceau. Depicting a boy and a girl meeting on a bridge, the timepiece seemed practicaly made for the Chinese holiday.

Will Blood Rice Phones Kill Apple’s China Game?

The 90 seconds it took Xiaomi to sell 100,000 of its new “Red Rice” (红米) handsets took just about as long to rocket across China’s social media. The online special sale came after the low-budget, high-spec Chinese smartphone maker had pre-sold 7.45 million of the $130 phones. The world immediately wondered, and rightfully so, what this means for Apple. Indeed, one industry observer in China jokingly called the “Red Rice” the “Blood Rice” because of what it would do to Apple’s China prospects. Xiaomi responded to the sales by adding a “stretch goal” of 20 million units sold by the end of the year.

A new study shows exactly why Xiaomi’s Red Rice is such a monster hit. A survey from Sina Tech (via Tech in Asia) found that Chinese consumers do not want to shell out more than $330 for a domestic phone. The study found that 1,000 to 2,000 yuan ($164 to $327) is the best range for sales. Xiaomi’s 799 yuan ($130) Red Rice massacred that, offering, for that price, a MTK quad-core 1.5GHz processor, an 8 megapixel rear camera, and 4.7 inch 720p screen. Maybe most important though is the fact that it also works on China Mobile, the nation’s (in fact, the world’s) most popular carrier.

However, Xiaomi Red Rice sales by no means spell doom for Apple’s planned low-cost iPhone 5c. But it does raise the stakes to truly incredible levels for Apple and more or less makes it a necessity that Apple lock up that rumored deal with China Mobile.

China Consumers Hunger for Fresh, Online-Ordered Produce

Speaking of selling things quickly, it took just three days to sell about 60 tons of US cherries on Tmall.com, better known as the e-commerce giant Taobao. The special promotion by Taobao and the US Department of Agriculture’s Shanghai trade office guaranteed Chinese consumers would receive the cherries in less than 72 hours after they were plucked off American cherry trees.

These staggering numbers make obvious a market for direct-to-consumer agriculture sales from US growers to Chinese customers who are growing increasingly panicked by the questionable pedigree of locally grown produce. Other growers have also found China a booming target for their products. For example, China is now California’s almond growers second largest market, scouting for 240 million pounds per year. Any American agricultural group with a legitimate concern about future sales should be calling their local trade group immediately to ask about how to replicate the Taobao cherry experiment.

More China News:

IKEA’s new Taiwan ad has been labeled “homophobic” and has been accused of encouraging wasteful consumption. Tisk, Tisk.

– Like your blue jeans? You should probably avoid reading this as at all costs

– Lux brand Chow Tai Fook evades price manipulation fine. Five other jewelers hit for $1.7 million.

– Can you ace this excellent China Auto Brand Quiz?

– Should automakers be worried that they’re next in line for China’s ongoing crackdown on price fixing? (Yes.) 

– A 50-photo gallery of the favorite luxury brands of China’s footballers. China’s terrible, terrible footballers.

KFC’s latest China woes? Dead beetles in milk tea. Meanwhile, Yum! stock is down 2 percent.

– Can Wisconsin cash in on China’s ban on New Zealand milk?

Whirlpool expanding its reach in China with $552 million controlling stake in Chinese company.

Shangri La Hotels asks “What is your Shanghai?

– Dispute resolved over payments between China and Hollywood.

Wang Peipei is the first Chinese designer to hit Milan’s catwalk.

– China’s appetite for meat is a boon for beef ranchers Down Under.

– Speaking of meat, a fascinating and detailed look into crowdfunding platform “The Meat Shop” that aids families of dissidents.

– China media watcher Danwei has a great collage of newspaper front pages about the recent infant formula milkpocalypse.

– China has 442,00 foreign funded companies with registered capital of 12.09 trillion yuan ($1.95 trillion).

– China’s “Pickle Index.”

Shanghai Disneyland gets major backer in AgBank.

Novartis latest foreign pharma targeted for bribes by China regulators.

– The influx of Chinese students to the US is creating opportunties in school boarding.

– Shanghai’s new Global Harbor mega mall saw 500,000 visitors in its first three days.

Baidu has an app store after shelling out $1.9 billion for 91 Wireless.

– Water bottle hump for your back-brand CameBak names a new China distributor.

Lenovo profits better than expected thanks to mobile sales.

At top: Metallica played its first ever China show this week (via a Weibo Metallica superfan). This autumn will see China tours by Aerosmith and Justin Bieber.

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