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30/10/2010 - China's new status symbol is a 6,000 USD toilet  30/10/2010 - China's new status symbol is a 6,000 USD toilet

As the property boom in China looks set to continue, there have been some interesting knock-on effects for other industries.

You may be surprised to learn that one such industry is in futuristic, state-of-the-art toilets.

In fact, new property buyers are leaving their old style toilets behind in droves and trading up to new high tech alternatives laden with the latest in toilet technologies.

In plush high-end showrooms, where you would expect to shop for the latest in fashionable clothes and designer gadgets, the Chinese are test-driving new commodes.

Dong Yu, who recently purchased a 2,200 square foot apartment in Beijing, is one such punter in the market for a sporty little number. He was prepared to pay anything up to $400 USD for a pair of new toilets. The model he finally chose has a slim tank and ultra-quiet flush – essential for those late night bathroom visits!

"Today, Chinese people like to focus on the kitchen and the bathroom in their new apartments; it's a big difference from when I was a kid. We had to share public bathrooms, which only had squat toilets." said Dong.

As the Chinese strive for a better standard of living, the property boom has led to a surge in the plumbing and specifically toilet manufacturing industries. Nineteen million commodes are sold in China each year - almost double the number sold in the U.S.

"China is the most competitive market in the world," said Larry Yuen, president of Kohler Asia, which has eleven factories in China. "There are brands from Japan, Europe and America all fighting for market share."

"Over a decade ago China's government started to allow private property development. Since then, the amount of urban residential space has doubled each year. Apartments are sold bare without furniture or basic kitchen and bathroom fixtures and fittings. So buyers must outfit them," he continued.

Even though Western style toilets are readily available for only $20 dollars the Chinese are keen to spend anything up to $6000 dollars. These luxury models already account for over five percent of the total toilet market share.

Buyers certainly have plenty to choose from, with features including oscillating bidets, air fresheners and even blow dryers.

One of China’s top manufacturers, Toto China, proudly advertise their most expensive space age models which sport rear and front cleansing, heated seats and water saving, powerful, hands free, sensor flushing.

Toto China operates nine factories and have seen sales rise ten percent year on year since 2000.

"Our goal is to make these kinds of functionalities basic for everyone. We believe demand will continue to grow as urbanisation continues to grow. People have more money to spend, and they want to be comfortable." said Takahiro Yanagihara, Director of Toto China.

Household name American Standard, whose operations within Asia are owned by the Japanese are also trying to educate Chinese consumers about commodes.

China has suffered from substandard plumbing and overloaded city sewers for many years - blockages are common and plumbing work is often poor.

It's no surprise that there’s a well-known joke in China - "If you need a bathroom, just follow your nose!"

Zhang Li, a real estate agent who grew up in one of Beijing's old courtyard neighbourhoods, recalls the odour of the public bathrooms was never far away. She has no regrets about stocking her luxury apartment with the latest Kohler fixtures.

"I think we've earned the right to have clean, nice bathrooms," she said.







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