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Trade fairs: Xiamen expands

(April 2011) A fringe event of the Xiamen trade fair deserves special mention: The opening day saw the laying of the foundation stone for the Xiamen International Stone Centre. It will encompass 10,000 m² exhibitions grounds and an 8-story office complex above it with space for 250 – 300 company headquarters. Foreign companies will also be able to rent space, as stated by Rochester Xu, President of the centre and head of Tongho Stone.

„Up“, as the organization is called for short, wishes not only to make a name for the region of Xiamen as China’s centre for stone production. Visions extend beyond national boundaries: Up „is planned to be the head office and centre of the global stone business“ and, it is hoped, take on a leading role in „stone test and researching and the stone logistic business“, as said in a press release.

The new centre will ensue in the technology garden of Huli District near the airport and other important points of infrastructure. The project is financed by large stone-producing companies from Xiamen with the support of local chamber of commerce. Completion is scheduled for QIV 2012.

The opening ceremony was an open-air live show of the Chinese way of living: Welcome-hostesses clad in red dresses and white stoles affixed corsages to visitors‘ lapels, wild percussionists made the surroundings reverberate. After the opening speeches, huge cannons shot confetti skyward to the blaring sound of the Radetzky March. Oh, and the foundation stone was, to Western eyes, a gravestone.

Contact: Rochester Xu (Mail)

The fair, too, aims to expand. Where exhibitors rented space in tents in previous years, the space now was occupied by a huge pit. To the 105,000 m² already available, another 10,000 m² are scheduled to be completed by next year and further 30,000 m² by 2013 according to the organizers.

Exhibitors were able to register an increase in visitors at this the 11th Xiamen Stone Fair as in the previous decade (see table below). An Italian visitor publishing in the Carrara newsletter of Consorzio CosMaVe (Italian) put it this way: „Xiamen is, without a doubt, on the way to becoming the prime event in the global stone world.”

This perception says it all. However as far as designer products are concerned, we reached an entirely different conclusion than our Italian colleague. While he writes that nothing of real interest has occurred on the Chinese front compared to last year’s fair („they learned to saw and hone, but good taste and originality of design are not conveyed”), we, on the other hand, found that China has come a very long way in it’s efforts to produce good design.

Whereas in the Western world, design is often more a matter of l’art pour l’art and seems preoccupied with exaggerated shapes, China’s taste is down to earth. Its target group for new aesthetics are not the wealthy but rather the upper middle class. In coming issues we will be presenting some example companies.

But in another aspect we agree with our Italian colleague totally: infringement has reached unacceptably high levels. We show some example photos taken from the Hao Gong Fu stand: e.g. a 1:1 copy of the Italian Lithos Design production. But that’s not all: the pictures on the reverse side of their calling cards are stolen from the Italian catalogue (see photos).

The Chinese trade organization is called upon to take action. In the above mentioned centre, it could set up a complaint department or ombudsman to hear infringement complaints.

One might say that the time has come to take world-wide action against copyright and trademark infringement. To this end, the Stone+tec in Nuremberg could serve as an example: here exhibitors can register their goods to protect against infringement and document their position.

It seems plausible that all trade fairs set up a similar system accessible through a common website. Even if this leads to strife or duplicity, the effect would probably be preventative in nature keeping plagiarism at bay.

Another observation of our Italian colleague is disquieting as well: he writes that one Chinese company was offering Portoro-marble slabs in a format that cannot be delivered – closer scrutiny shows that two slabs were joined together and offered as a single piece. Such practice spoils business for the entire branch in the eyes of architects and consumers.

We show a few photos of ideas exhibited at the fair.

Xiamen Stone Fair, 06. – 09. March 2012