Guizhou Province, China – Nestled amidst the rugged landscapes of Guizhou Province in southwestern China, Zheng’an County has emerged as a global hub for the production of meticulously crafted guitars. These exquisite instruments, the result of over 200 intricate manufacturing processes, now find their way to music enthusiasts worldwide, thanks to the China-Europe freight trains, water transport, and other distribution channels.
In a music studio on the outskirts of Moscow, Russian guitarist Grigory Novikov plucks the strings of a classical guitar from Zheng’an County, reveling in the beautiful melodies of a Russian classic. Novikov, who has spent nearly 30 years mastering the classical guitar, has developed a special affinity for this Chinese-made instrument.
“By chance, I acquired a guitar from Zheng’an County through a Chinese distributor, which deepened my understanding of Chinese guitar craftsmanship and music culture,” Novikov shared. He not only plays Chinese-made guitars himself but also recommends them to others. In fact, one of his students, using a Chinese guitar lent by Novikov, clinched an award in this year’s competition for young guitar professionals.
Back in Zheng’an County, the Guitar Culture Industry Park is a bustling hub, receiving a constant stream of orders from around the globe. Home to over 120 guitar-related companies, it’s hard to believe that just a decade ago, this area was one of China’s most impoverished regions.
The transformation began in 2013 when China initiated the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious project aimed at creating trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.
Over the past ten years, Zheng’an County has blossomed into a guitar manufacturing epicenter in China, producing more than 6 million guitars annually. This staggering output accounts for approximately one-fifth of China’s and one-seventh of the world’s total guitar production.
“We do OEM production for more than 100 global brands, producing over 400,000 guitars annually, 95 percent of which are for export,” explained Zheng Chuanjiu, founder of Zunyi Shenqu Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Shenqu, the first guitar factory to establish itself in Zheng’an County in 2013, has evolved into a leading local enterprise with its products exported to countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.
At an international music instrument and equipment event held in California, Hakan Kutlu, the general manager of a Turkish guitar sales company, revealed that they order over 10,000 guitars annually from Shenqu. Kutlu cited the excellent quality, cost-effectiveness, and popularity among customers as the primary reasons for choosing Chinese instruments.
Zheng’an-based Natasha Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co., Ltd. drew international attention at the same exhibition with its innovative all-bamboo smart guitar. This instrument, which incorporates cutting-edge technology such as embedded sound cards and chips, represents a significant departure from traditional guitar manufacturing that relies heavily on imported wood.
According to Zhao Jianfeng, founder of Natasha, Chinese independent brands must focus on enhancing quality and highlighting unique features to compete successfully on the global stage. Zheng’an County has made strides in this direction, securing 288 guitar-related patents and 77 trademarks while promoting independent brands for international recognition.
In addition to improving craftsmanship, Zhang Weiyi, a luthier in the Zheng’an Guitar Culture Industry Park, integrates elements of Chinese culture into his guitar designs. He has incorporated Miao silver ornaments into his creations, resonating with buyers worldwide. Zhang’s workshop produced 172 high-end guitars worth nearly 10 million yuan (1.4 million dollars) last year.
Zheng’an County doesn’t just export guitars; it also promotes guitar culture by inviting renowned guitar performers from around the world to foster a vibrant local music scene.
“The Belt and Road Initiative has provided Zheng’an with a broad platform for external exchanges,” emphasized Zhu Meifang, director of the Zheng’an Ruixin Industrial Park Management Service Center. With an unyielding commitment to craftsmanship and a rich cultural tapestry, Zheng’an County’s thriving guitar industry continues to hit all the right notes on the global stage.