A China-made toy fighter jet has gone viral on social media platforms such as TikTok and Facebook, with high demand putting pressure on factories in the Zhejiang province manufacturing hub to ship more products abroad.

Wang Sen, sales manager of Zhejiang Zhiyang Shiye Ltd, one of the main makers of the remote-controlled toy said overseas orders have doubled in the past year after demonstration videos made by the company started to gain attention on TikTok around the end of 2021.

Some of the viral short videos feature a middle-aged man in a suit showing the durability and operation of the remote-controlled fighter jet, which is modelled after a jet from former Russian aerospace company Mikoyan (MiG).

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In one of the videos, a man – standing on a factory floor – makes a funny face with bulging eyes, and bends the soft wings of the jet so that the cockpit sits in his hand, showing the flexibility of the toy which is made from polypropylene foam. It is so light and soft that some reviewers have said the plane "will never break" if it crashes. He then throws the jet into the air and using the remote control flies it in a loop so that it lands back in the palm of his hand.

Wang said the company has promoted these videos on Douyin, TikTok's Chinese sister app, gaining popularity in the domestic market, before some users posted and circulated them on overseas platforms such as Facebook and YouTube too.

The company, which makes various remote control toys, is still focused on the domestic market, with only 20 to 30 per cent of orders coming from its export partners to ship to overseas markets – including the US – according to Wang, who declined to share specific sales figures.

The factory's production volume, on the other hand, varies from 2,000 to 3,000 toys each day, according to Wang.

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The fighter jet toy, with a price tag of less than US$50 on e-commerce sites such as eBay and Amazon, has gained popularity for its affordability. Wholesale prices vary from 68 yuan to 108 yuan, depending on the size of order, according to Zhejiang Zhiyang.

The fighter jet is an example of Chinese products going viral through foreign social media platforms, as well as the ability of the world's factory to step up production to satisfy a spike in global appetite.

Wang Lu, owner of Chenjia Toy Limited in the city of Yiwu – seen as a leading manufacturing hub for smaller goods – saw a surge in overseas orders for the toy fighter earlier this year before stringent Covid-19 control measures caused supply chain disruption.

"Our order volume more than doubled earlier this year, but during the Covid-19 outbreaks from March to May our goods could not be shipped domestically and almost all overseas orders were cancelled," Chenjia's Wang said. "I'm starting to get export orders recently but they're mainly small orders for a few hundred items."

However, Wang is hopeful that the toy will still remain popular in overseas markets at least for another year. One of Wang's recent export clients, which made a small order of just over 100 jets, plans to sell them via Meta Platform's Facebook, he said.

"This toy is very easy to operate and very cheap in price, so it can still maintain its popularity," said Chenjia's Wang.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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