What do Russian ice cream, British beer, and dumplings with stir-fried pig liver and intestines have in common? When President Xi Jinping consumes them, sales in China soar.
The latest indicator of the Xi factor: A surge in purchases of Russian ice creams after President Vladamir Putin brought some as a gift for Xi at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou earlier this month. Sales jumped after the news, the Chengdu Economic Daily reported Tuesday.
"Chinese tend to follow the trend, to jump on the bandwagon," said Beijinger Wu Ge, 63. "Throughout history Chinese people have looked up to their great leaders, and that’s how it is with Xi, especially among young people."
Wu stood Thursday outside the Qing Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop near Beijing’s Financial Street, a restaurant that was an early indicator for how Xi could boost sales not long after he took office.
More than three years after Xi’s surprise visit to the restaurant chain to eat a set meal of dumplings, vegetables and stir fried pig liver and intestines -- now known as "The Chairman’s Set" -- business there is still booming.
A queue of more than 30 people backed up at the counter Thursday while outside a group of 27 from Shenzhen-based fresh fruit supplier Shenzhen Lohas World Co. posed for a photograph after a meeting nearby.
Wang Qing, 58, visiting with her husband from Yantai in Shandong province on the east coast, sat with him at Xi’s table, eating the chairman's set meal.
"My husband has been here several times before and I’ve always wanted to come," she said. "I told my husband that when I visit Beijing with him I must come here."
After Xi visited a British pub with former Prime Minister David Cameron last year, sales of British beer surged in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in October. A Beijing-based importer of Britain’s Greene King IPA beer saw the company planning to increase imports from 6,000 bottles a month to 80,000, the report said.
Xi’s also impacting outbound tourism. Following his visit to New Zealand in November 2014 and the airing of a popular reality TV show in China featured New Zealand that year, Chinese visitor numbers leaped more than 34 percent in 2015 to almost 356,000.
"Both events resulted in a significant spike in online searches for keywords such as “New Zealand,” “New Zealand tourism” and “New Zealand visa” as eager Chinese citizens rushed online to learn more," Zhu Shing, an analyst at Auckland-based Milford Asset Management, said in a January report.
— With assistance by Kevin Hamlin, and Miao Han