By Martin Vedris in Shunde

SHUNDE, CHINA: If you want kooky humidifiers, single portable induction cooktops, kettles, rice cookers and funny clothes dryers in a blow-up plastic bubble, the 2008 Shunde International Expo was your place — but don’t be misled, these were just for show.

Walking around the three packed halls of the Shunde Expo, there were similar products at every turn. How can one show contain so many companies making what seems to be identical products?

The most popular products on show were quirky humidifiers in all shapes and sizes, (including what looked like penguins) billowing out clouds of steam, your single induction cooktops, a range of similar-looking blenders (spruiked by headphone-wearing salesmen who would occasionally stop blending to bash the blender with a hammer and stand on it to show how surprisingly strong the plastic was), kettles of all shapes and sizes and clothes steamers, amongst others.

How can one show contain so many similar products? The answer is 1.3 billion Chinese people. One factory cannot possibly keep up with local demand for single induction cooktops, kettles and other basics.

However, these products are just a staple of these factories. They keep the factories afloat but they also demonstrate the ingenuity of these factories.

There are more than 2,000 companies dealing in household electrical appliances manufacturing and supplies in Shunde. The main categories of electrical appliances manufactured here include refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines and various kitchen and bathroom electrical appliances.

In terms of finding product for the tastes of the Australian market, there wasn’t much on show that would appeal to the Australian aspirations. However, that is only because the expo was an opportunity for local manufacturers to show their wares and capability, not to show the products they already make for the international market.

The show organisers made a point of stating that the exhibitors were carefully screened to ensure that any companies with a history of infringing copyright and patents were not allowed to exhibit at the show. China said it wants to take the battle against piracy more seriously.

There was only one company at the show with falsely branded product — a small MP3 and USB accessories manufacturer with a Sony sticker on a multimedia player and camera. Although the company director did say it wasn’t a Sony. The same multimedia player was on sale in a local Shunde department store, next to Apple branded MP3 players that resembled the iPod in brand name only.

The finish of the product at the Shunde show was not the style in demand in Australia. With the exception of the bigger brands like Hisense and Midea, and kettles, there wasn’t much in the way of stainless steel finishes. However, the exhibitors were bursting to talk business and attract international manufacturing opportunities.

The record of Shunde speaks for itself. The county is one of the richest in China, the GDP is growing at double digit levels every year. If the rest of the world is obsessed with a potential recession, there is no hint of one here in Shunde — they’re too busy.