Black Duck Station and Moutai Airport - Business Sponsorship for Transportaiton Facilities

The recent change of guard in the Chinese Communist leadership notwithstanding, China today is truly capitalist when it comes to money-making. There are many practices in the country that will startle even the hardcore free-marketers from the West.

The most recent example of this is how some Chinese cities are letting private businesses buy up the right to tag their brands to names of subway stations. In the city of Wuhan, the recent announcement of yet another business-sponsored subway station stirred up controversy and caught national attention. The outcry is not so much due to overall objection to the general practice—it is too late for that, it seems—what irked many people is the particular business name in question – “Zhou Hei Ya,” which means “Black Duck Zhou,” a business that sells duck necks. So now there is a subway station in Wuhan that is officially known as “Zhou Hei Yan Jianghan Station,” “Jianghan” being the original name referring to the geo location of the station.

The commercialization of subway stations has been done in other Chinese cities. In Changchun, there is “Jindou Jituan Qianjin Station,” “Jindou Jituan” is “Golden Beans Group,” a local company that started in service industries and later expanded into other areas of business. In Tianjin there is a subway station called “Xiaobailou Jianshe Yinhang Station,” a station sponsored by Construction Bank.

The problem with such practices is not only poor taste or over-commercialization but also the real issue that subway names have become so long that they’re difficult for travelers newly arrived in the cities to remember.
On the other hand, money thus raked in is real too. Black Duch Zhou paid ¥500 million (approximately eight million US dollars) to be part of the name for Jianghan Subway Station for six years.

There is more fun stuff to come. If things go as planned now, soon there will be a Guiyang Maotai Airport and a Yibin Wulianye Airport, their names respectively sponsored by two of China’s leading hard-liquor producers. Maotai is known as Moutai in the West.