Germany teddy maker Steiff to end production in China

Venerable German toy maker Steiff will no longer produce its trademark teddy bears in China because of quality concerns, according to a newspaper report on Wednesday.

Germany teddy maker Steiff to end production in China
Photo: DPA

“We are withdrawing from China step by step. For toys of high quality, China is simply not a reliable source,” the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper quoted company chief Martin Frechen as saying.

Frechen said Chinese factories were not able to produce complicated models to the company’s standards or ship toys for which there was a strong demand to Germany in time. He said delivery times became a pressing problem when Steiff ordered 80,000 copies of its white “Knut” bear, based on the Berlin zoo’s popular polar bear cub by the same name, and the toys took three months to reach Germany.

Steiff, which was founded by a wheelchair-bound woman in 1800, began outsourcing production to Chinese factories in 2004, saying German producers could not compete in terms of cost.

The company sent 300 workers to China to oversee production, but Frechen said even so the Chinese producers fell short of standards. Steiff is battling to win back marketshare for its most famous product, a teddy with a button sewn into its ear, and Frechen said bringing production back to Germany was part of these efforts.

The company said if one of the bear’s eyes were placed a fraction too high or low, its melancholy gaze loses its appeal, the newspaper said. Steiff’s announcement comes less than a month after Beijing revoked the export licences of about 700 toys factories over safety failings.


China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as ‘political farce’

China on Tuesday blasted a democracy conference in Copenhagen attended by Taiwan's president and a Hong Kong activist alongside Danish government officials this week, qualifying it a "political farce".

China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as 'political farce'
Demonstrators gathered outside the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Tuesday. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Copenhagen Democracy Summit was held Monday and Tuesday in the Danish capital and organised by the Alliance of Democracies, an organisation targeted by Beijing sanctions in March and founded by former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

In addition to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod also participated in the forum by video link, which Beijing said violated “the one-China principle.”

“This summit is a political farce,” the Chinese embassy in Denmark wrote in a statement published on Tuesday. “Inviting those who advocate Taiwan and Hong Kong ‘independence’ to the meeting violates the one-China principle and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” it said.

“Some hypocritical western politicians are good at meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and creating divisions and confrontation in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. They are bound to fail,” it added.

At the conference on Monday, Kofod said it was “deplorable” that Beijing had imposed sanctions on 10 European individuals and organisations in response to EU sanctions on Xinjiang officials over their actions against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Like most countries, Denmark applies the one-China principle — under which Beijing bars other countries from having simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taipei — though it does maintain relations with Taiwan.

Cut off politically from the rest of China since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the territory is self-governing but is not recognised by
the United Nations.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province that will one day return under its control, by force if necessary.

China’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably over the past year, with fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone on a near-daily basis.

“Our government is fully aware of the threats to regional security, and is actively enhancing our national defence capabilities to protect our
democracy,” Tsai told the conference in a video address on Monday. US President Joe Biden is expected to present his China strategy soon, as
calls mount for him to publicly commit to defending Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.