Americans: Don’t Forget to Thank Mr. Ding This Fourth of July

Since I’m pressed for time today, I figured I would stick to something light and cheeky: while most people know that the Chinese invented fireworks over a millennia ago, they may not realized that China (perhaps ironically) remains the main source of the fireworks most Americans will be using to celebrate their nation’s independence.

In particular, as the LA Times points out, it is one otherwise obscure Chinese businessman who accounts for the vast majority of fireworks imported into the U.S.

Roughly 70% of all Chinese fireworks entering the United States come here under the control of a Chinese businessman who has used his influence to raise prices and block competitors, leaving many U.S. executives fearful of losing access to their most important Fourth of July inventories.

Ding Yan Zhong — known to industry insiders as “Mr. Ding” — has managed the flow of fireworks for a decade through the two companies he founded, Shanghai Huayang and Firstrans International.

He has broadened his empire by consolidating power in China, expanding his reach into California and becoming the most important player in fireworks logistics on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Now, Ding’s control of the fireworks delivery chain is nearly complete, according to two dozen shipping and fireworks executives, more than 40,000 fireworks shipping records, numerous court documents and other sources.

From the southeastern Chinese city of Liuyang, where the majority of U.S.-bound fireworks are made, producers often load their products onto Huayang trucks. After they are stored in a Huayang warehouse, Huayang runs access to the barges they float down on the Yangtze River toward Shanghai. Once there, Huayang arranges for their shipment across the ocean.

In the United States, these containers, often stuffed with 30,000 pounds of pyrotechnics, are frequently received by Firstrans, which was founded by Ding seven years ago, completing an 11,000-mile journey connected to Ding every step of the way.

If you have the time, I recommend reading the rest of the piece, which dives into the murky and complex world of Mr. Ding’s enterprise and how business in China is conducted.

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