Hello Kitty has officially climbed on board China’s official “reform and opening up” bandwagon, adding an animated Japanese element to the government’s much ballyhooed agenda for advancing socialism with Chinese characteristics.
China’s State Council even held a press conference to help promote the cartoon cat-themed project, alerting the media last Friday that Hainan Province would, in fact, be building a Hello Kitty-branded amusement park. The park, to be called “Hainan Hello Kitty Paradise” and expected to reel in the “parent-child tourism” crowd found in abundance on China’s version of Hawaii, will cost a reported RMB 11 billion ($1.6 billion), and is one of 12 key pilot projects being built on Hainan Island.
The park, slated for Haitang Bay, in Sanya, is being built by Hong Kong’s Fude Group Holdings, which is headed by Pan Jiade, son of the popular entrepreneur Pan Zhengzhou who fled Hainan for Hong Kong as a teenager, made his fortune, and has since become a leading investor in the mainland.
The younger Pan has led several investment projects in Hainan, including building the 435-room Grand Hyatt Sanya Haitang Bay, and he is also the legal representative of Hainan Fude Real Estate Development.
It will not be the first Hello Kitty theme park in China, either. An indoor Hello Kitty park had been scheduled to open in Shanghai in October, and was supposed to have combined nostalgia for the city’s history and fashion with the fun of Hello Kitty, who, according to varying accounts could be either an actual kitten or a British schoolgirl called Kitty White who lives outside of London.
Anyway, no word on whether the Shanghai Kitty park has opened.
Less Than Purr-fect Precedent
The first Hello Kitty outdoor park in China opened in 2015 in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, to less than sterling reviews.
One reviewer said the food on offer there was “worse than any train food you’ll find in China but five times as expensive,” and that much of the merchandise for sale was of the bootlegged variety. In addition, the whole place “looked like a construction site.”
And this, from a Japanese critic: “What kind of official theme park sells fake goods?”
Indeed, and here’s hoping that Hainan Island authorities aren’t selling us Hello Kitty lovers a bill of goods with their newest theme park.