1. From Radar to TVs: CHiQ’s parent company, Changhong, started as China’s sole producer of military radar, highlighting a surprising origin story for a consumer electronics brand.
  2. Price Wars Pioneer: Changhong’s founder, Ni Runfeng, was a master of the “price war” strategy, defying norms to bring color TVs to the masses, but his boldness also led to costly mistakes.
  3. The $4 Billion Blunder: Changhong fell victim to a massive fraud by a US partner, losing a staggering sum that nearly crippled the company.
  4. Betting on the Wrong Future: Changhong missed the LCD revolution, doubling down on plasma technology and losing its market dominance in the process.
  5. Smart with Style: CHiQ represents Changhong’s rebirth, a brand focused on fusing cutting-edge AI technology with sleek, globally appealing design.
  6. China’s Global Ambitions: CHiQ’s story reflects the larger narrative of Chinese brands striving for global recognition, facing both immense opportunities and fierce competition on the world stage.

To understand the significance of Changhong and its global brand CHiQ, one must rewind to 1980s China. Emerging from the shadows of a tumultuous past, the nation embarked on a path of economic reform, opening its doors to the world and awakening a dormant consumer spirit within its people. It was a time of great change, marked by a newfound fascination with technology and the arrival of previously unimaginable luxuries. Among these, the television set stood out as a potent symbol of progress and a window to a wider world.

Enter Changhong, a name that would soon become synonymous with the Chinese dream of a color TV in every home. Founded in 1958 as a humble military factory in the southwestern city of Mianyang, Changhong (meaning “Long Rainbow”) was initially tasked with producing military electronics for a nation focused on defense. However, recognizing the winds of change, the company bravely embraced the government’s call for “military-to-civilian” conversion in the early 1970s, taking its first steps into the world of consumer electronics.

In 1985, a visionary leader took the helm, forever changing the trajectory of Changhong. Ni Runfeng, a no-nonsense engineer with a sharp business acumen, understood the aspirations of a nation yearning for a taste of modernity. Under his bold leadership, Changhong shifted its focus entirely to television production, investing heavily in acquiring advanced technology from Japanese giants like Panasonic. The gamble paid off. Changhong’s TVs, known for their quality and affordability, captured the hearts of Chinese consumers.

What truly propelled Changhong to the forefront, however, was Ni’s masterful use of “price wars.” In 1989, when a newly implemented consumption tax threatened to stifle the burgeoning TV market, Ni made the audacious move to slash prices, defying industry conventions and the ire of competitors. It was a gamble that cemented Changhong’s dominance, turning the brand into a household name and earning Ni the moniker “The King of Color TV.” By the mid-1990s, Changhong was a national champion, boasting a market share exceeding 35% and becoming a symbol of China’s economic rise. At its peak, it was said that “for every three TVs sold, one is Changhong.” The company single-handedly put Mianyang on the map, contributing significantly to the city’s economic output and embodying the aspirations of a nation on the move.

Yet, even rainbows fade. The late 1990s and early 2000s marked a period of turbulence for Changhong. Ni’s aggressive tactics, while initially successful, had sown the seeds of future struggles. His attempt to monopolize the supply of color picture tubes backfired, burdening the company with excessive inventory. A costly misstep involving a fraudulent American partner led to a staggering $4 billion loss, shaking Changhong’s financial stability and tarnishing its reputation. By the time Ni stepped down in 2004, the company he had built into a national icon found itself grappling with mounting challenges and a rapidly changing technological landscape. The era of the “King of Color TV” had come to an end, leaving a void that the once-mighty Changhong struggled to fill.

Ni Runfeng: The Man Who Painted the Town Changhong

Born in 1944 in Shandong province, Ni Runfeng’s life mirrored the dramatic changes sweeping through China. He began his career in 1967 as a young engineer at State-owned Factory 780, the precursor to Changhong, right in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. It was a time of ideological fervor, yet Ni, with his pragmatic mind and keen sense of opportunity, seemed destined for a different stage.

Ni Runfeng, the founder of Changhong.

By 1985, at the age of 41, Ni’s talent and unwavering work ethic had propelled him to the factory’s top job. Taking the helm of what was still largely a military-oriented enterprise, he boldly declared, “A factory director’s job is to find work for the workers and profits for the enterprise.” These words would define his tenure, reflecting a leadership style that was equal parts visionary and ruthless. Ni understood that for Changhong to survive, it needed to break free from its reliance on dwindling government contracts and embrace the nascent but rapidly growing consumer market.

In the 1980s, Changhong introduced China’s first color TV production line from Panasonic, Japan.

His vision was clear: to transform Changhong from a maker of military hardware into a household name synonymous with cutting-edge consumer electronics. Television, at the time a coveted luxury for most Chinese families, presented the perfect opportunity. Ignoring the naysayers, Ni steered Changhong towards the production of color TVs, a bold move in an era when black-and-white sets still dominated. He traveled to Japan, forging partnerships with electronics giants like Panasonic to acquire the necessary technology and expertise. Recognizing that technology alone wouldn’t guarantee success, Ni combined this technological prowess with a daring pricing strategy that would become his trademark.

In 1989, a new consumption tax threatened to derail the nascent color TV market. While competitors hesitated, Ni saw an opportunity. He slashed the prices of Changhong TVs, defying industry norms and triggering what would become known as China’s first “price war.” His gamble paid off handsomely. Chinese consumers, hungry for affordable quality, flocked to Changhong. The company’s sales skyrocketed, catapulting it to the forefront of the industry and making Ni a national figure, lauded by some as a hero for the common man.

The 1990s witnessed the zenith of Ni’s Changhong. The company, fueled by his relentless drive and shrewd maneuvering, consistently outsold foreign competitors, achieving a market dominance that seemed unassailable. “Every three TVs sold, one is Changhong,” became a common refrain, reflecting the company’s grip on the nation’s living rooms. Ni, hailed as a visionary and a national champion, saw his creation become a symbol of China’s reemergence on the world stage.

However, Ni’s reign, much like the tumultuous era he navigated, was marked by a mix of brilliance and miscalculation. His belief in the power of scale and market dominance led him to make risky bets. A plan to control the supply of color picture tubes, intended to cripple competitors, backfired, leaving Changhong saddled with massive inventories.

But it was the APEX debacle that truly marked the beginning of the end for Ni’s era. In a bid to conquer the American market, Changhong partnered with a seemingly reputable distributor, APEX. The deal, however, proved disastrous. APEX, after receiving shipments of Changhong TVs, vanished into thin air, leaving behind a staggering $4 billion debt and a gaping hole in Changhong’s finances.

The APEX debacle exposed the flaws in Ni’s top-down leadership style and his overconfidence in his ability to control the market. By the time he stepped down in 2004, Changhong, once a symbol of China’s unstoppable rise, found itself at a crossroads. Ni’s legacy, a mix of triumph and tribulation, serves as a potent reminder of the complexities of navigating a rapidly changing market and the high cost of even the most well-intentioned missteps. The man who painted the town Changhong had left an indelible mark, but the rainbow he had so carefully constructed was beginning to fade.

Changhong in the New Millennium: Navigating a Changing Landscape

The year 2004 marked a turning point for Changhong, akin to a ship changing captains amidst a gathering storm. Ni Runfeng, the formidable captain who had steered the company to its zenith, stepped down, leaving behind a legacy marked by both dazzling successes and cautionary failures. Stepping into his shoes was Zhao Yong, a young, tech-savvy leader with a doctorate in engineering. Zhao inherited a company grappling with the ghosts of the APEX debacle, a mountain of unsold inventory, and a rapidly evolving consumer electronics landscape. The era of simply dominating the Chinese market through aggressive pricing was over. The new millennium demanded agility, innovation, and a keen understanding of the ever-shifting sands of consumer desire.

2000s, Changhong’s plasma TV.

One of the first challenges Zhao faced was navigating the turbulent waters of display technology. The industry was at a crossroads, divided between two emerging technologies: Plasma and LCD. Plasma, championed by Panasonic, offered vibrant colors and deep blacks, but suffered from bulkiness and high power consumption. LCD, on the other hand, boasted slimmer profiles and energy efficiency, but lagged behind in color reproduction and contrast.

Changhong, under Zhao’s leadership, placed a fateful bet on plasma, hoping to leverage its early lead in the technology to recapture its lost glory. In 2006, the company invested heavily in a Korean plasma display panel manufacturer, Orion, aiming to secure a steady supply of what it believed would be the future of television. This bet, however, proved to be a costly misjudgment. LCD technology, buoyed by advancements in LED backlighting, rapidly closed the performance gap while offering consumers the sleek design and energy efficiency they craved.

By 2008, it was clear that Changhong had backed the wrong horse. The global financial crisis further compounded its woes, leading to a sharp decline in consumer spending and leaving Changhong with factories churning out plasma TVs that few wanted. The company’s losses mounted, and its market share, once seemingly unassailable, began to dwindle as nimbler competitors like Samsung and LG seized the LCD wave to capture the hearts, and wallets, of consumers.

Facing an existential threat, Zhao Yong recognized the need for a drastic course correction. Changhong, he realized, could no longer afford to be a one-trick pony. The company needed to diversify, to explore new avenues for growth beyond the increasingly competitive world of television. Thus began Changhong’s foray into a bewildering array of product categories, from mobile phones to refrigerators, air conditioners, and even real estate.

The company poured resources into developing smartphones, hoping to replicate the success of local rivals like Huawei and Xiaomi. It launched a series of handsets, even enlisting the star power of Taiwanese actress Lin Chi-ling as a brand ambassador. However, Changhong struggled to stand out in a crowded market dominated by players with established brand recognition and superior technology. Its mobile phone venture, while not a complete failure, never gained significant traction, serving as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by latecomers in a fast-paced industry.

Despite these setbacks, Changhong’s diversification efforts were not entirely in vain. The company’s foray into white goods, particularly refrigerators and air conditioners, yielded some success, allowing it to tap into a growing demand for these appliances among China’s expanding middle class. Yet, even in these sectors, Changhong found itself playing catch-up, constantly battling for market share with established domestic giants like Haier, Midea, and Gree.

The rise of internet companies in the 2010s presented yet another challenge for Changhong. Companies like LeEco and Xiaomi, armed with disruptive business models, sleek designs, and a deep understanding of the digital ecosystem, began to chip away at the market share of traditional electronics giants. These companies, unburdened by legacy infrastructure and able to leverage the power of online marketing and direct-to-consumer sales, appealed to a new generation of tech-savvy consumers, further intensifying the competitive landscape for established players like Changhong.

Amidst these challenges, however, Zhao Yong recognized an opportunity. The rise of the internet had ushered in a new era of connectivity, with consumers increasingly expecting their devices to seamlessly interact with one another. Smart homes, once a futuristic concept, were rapidly becoming a reality, driven by advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Recognizing this paradigm shift, Changhong, in 2014, made a bold move that signaled its intention to be a major player in this nascent but rapidly growing market. It unveiled CHiQ, a new sub-brand representing the company’s renewed focus on AI, smart technology, and global ambitions. The launch of CHiQ marked a pivotal moment in Changhong’s journey, a conscious effort to shed its image as a fading giant of the past and embrace the future of consumer electronics. The rainbow, once faded, was being repainted with the colors of innovation and a determination to compete on a global stage.

CHiQ: A New Dawn for Changhong?

The dawn of the 21st century saw Changhong, once the undisputed king of China’s TV market, grappling with a shifting technological landscape and fierce competition. Recognizing the need for reinvention, the company embarked on a journey of transformation, culminating in the birth of CHiQ – a bold statement of Changhong’s commitment to innovation and its ambition to conquer the global stage. Launched in 2014, CHiQ is more than just a new product line; it’s a fresh identity, a declaration that Changhong is no longer content with resting on its laurels. CHiQ embodies the company’s renewed focus on cutting-edge technology, stylish design, and a determination to provide consumers worldwide with a smart and stylish lifestyle.

The name itself, a clever play on the pronunciation of “Changhong” with a modern twist, reflects the brand’s dual personality. The “CH” pays homage to its heritage, acknowledging its roots in the storied legacy of Changhong, while the “iQ” points towards the future, highlighting its embrace of intelligence and innovation.

CHiQ products, encompassing a wide range of consumer electronics from televisions and refrigerators to air conditioners and washing machines, are designed to appeal to a new generation of discerning consumers. These are individuals who value not only functionality and performance, but also aesthetics and a seamless integration of technology into their daily lives.

CHiQ’s design philosophy is centered around the concept of “Smart with Style,” a mantra that permeates every aspect of its product development. This means marrying cutting-edge technology with sleek, modern aesthetics, creating appliances that are as pleasing to the eye as they are intuitive to use. CHiQ TVs, for instance, boast slim bezels, elegant stands, and stunning picture quality powered by the latest display technologies, like OLED and Mini LED. Refrigerators feature sophisticated finishes, innovative storage solutions, and smart features like temperature control and inventory management, all accessible through intuitive touchscreens.

Recognizing that affordability remains a key factor for consumers, particularly in emerging markets, CHiQ strives to deliver its blend of style and technology at competitive prices. The brand’s value proposition is simple: to offer consumers premium features and design without the premium price tag, making smart living accessible to a wider audience. This commitment to value has been crucial in CHiQ’s rapid rise in the global marketplace.

The CHiQ factory in Indonesia.

No longer confined to the borders of China, CHiQ has aggressively expanded its footprint across the globe. The brand has made significant inroads in Europe, particularly in countries like Germany and France, where its combination of design and affordability has resonated with consumers. In Southeast Asia, CHiQ has established a strong presence in markets like Indonesia and Thailand, leveraging Changhong’s established manufacturing capabilities in the region to offer localized products tailored to the specific needs of Southeast Asian consumers.

Beyond Europe and Southeast Asia, CHiQ has set its sights on other key markets, including the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, aiming to become a truly global brand with a reach that spans continents. Its presence extends beyond brick-and-mortar stores, with a strong focus on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Lazada, making its products accessible to a wider audience and tapping into the growing trend of online shopping.

CHiQ’s global expansion is fueled by a clear vision: to create a smart and stylish lifestyle for consumers worldwide. This vision is reflected in the brand’s marketing campaigns, which often feature young, cosmopolitan individuals seamlessly integrating CHiQ products into their dynamic lives. It’s a vision that resonates with a global audience increasingly seeking products that not only meet their practical needs but also enhance their lifestyle and reflect their personal style.

While it’s still early days for CHiQ, the brand’s rapid ascent in the global market suggests that Changhong’s strategy of reinvention is paying off. CHiQ represents a new dawn for the company, a fresh start fueled by a commitment to innovation, design, and a global outlook. The rainbow, once faded, is now shining brightly on the world stage, carrying with it the hopes and aspirations of a Chinese brand determined to make its mark in the 21st century.

Looking Ahead, Can Changhong Recapture Its Former Glory?

The journey of Changhong, from its humble beginnings as a military factory to its reign as China’s “King of Color TV” and its current quest for global recognition as CHiQ, offers a captivating narrative of ambition, resilience, and the constant need for reinvention. Yet, as the company gazes towards the future, the question remains: can Changhong recapture its former glory in today’s hyper-competitive tech landscape?

The challenges are undeniable. The consumer electronics market, once defined by predictable cycles and established players, is now a whirlwind of rapid innovation, disruptive technologies, and ever-shifting consumer preferences. Global giants like Samsung, LG, and Sony, with their vast resources and established brand recognition, loom large. Agile internet companies like Xiaomi, with their laser focus on user experience and online-centric business models, constantly nip at the heels of traditional players.

Despite these formidable obstacles, Changhong, much like the enduring rainbow its name represents, shows no signs of fading away. The company, under Zhao Yong’s leadership, continues to adapt, learning from past missteps and embracing the transformative power of AI and IoT. The launch of CHiQ, with its focus on stylish design, smart features, and competitive pricing, demonstrates a keen understanding of the evolving desires of a global consumer base. Its strategic partnerships with international sporting events and teams, like the FIS Ski World Cup and German football club Borussia Dortmund, signal a commitment to building brand awareness on a global scale.

Changhong’s future success hinges on its ability to navigate several key trends shaping the industry. First and foremost is the relentless pace of technological advancement. The company must continue to invest in research and development, embracing emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, 5G connectivity, and 8K resolution, while ensuring these features translate into tangible benefits for consumers, not just marketing buzzwords.

Equally critical is the ability to forge a strong connection with the digitally native generation, a demographic increasingly comfortable with online shopping, social media engagement, and personalized experiences. Changhong needs to cultivate a brand image that resonates with this audience, emphasizing not just product features, but also values like sustainability, social responsibility, and a commitment to creating products that enhance lifestyles, not just fill living rooms.

The company’s success will also depend on its ability to leverage its manufacturing expertise and cost advantages to offer products that deliver exceptional value. While premium features and sleek design are important, affordability remains a key driver for consumers, especially in price-sensitive emerging markets. Changhong must strike a delicate balance, offering products that are both technologically advanced and competitively priced, ensuring they appeal to a wide range of consumers without sacrificing profitability.

Finally, Changhong must navigate the geopolitical complexities of a world increasingly divided by trade tensions and nationalistic sentiments. As a Chinese company seeking global recognition, it will need to deftly manage perceptions, emphasizing its commitment to global collaboration and fair competition while ensuring its products meet the diverse regulatory requirements of different markets.

Changhong’s journey, in many ways, mirrors the broader economic evolution of China. It represents the aspirations of a nation that has transformed itself from a closed-off, centrally planned economy to a global powerhouse, hungry for innovation and recognition on the world stage. The challenges Changhong faces – adapting to rapid technological change, competing with global giants, and navigating geopolitical tensions – are the same challenges faced by countless Chinese companies seeking to establish themselves as global brands.

In a world where technological prowess and brand recognition are paramount, Changhong’s future is far from certain. However, the company’s history, marked by both triumphs and tribulations, reveals a remarkable resilience and an unwavering determination to succeed. The rainbow, after all, is a symbol of hope, emerging after the storm. Changhong, despite the storms it has weathered, continues to strive, to innovate, and to reach for a brighter future. Whether it can reclaim its throne as a king of the consumer electronics world remains to be seen, but its journey, filled with lessons learned and ambitions undimmed, offers a compelling testament to the enduring spirit of innovation and the unwavering pursuit of a dream.


  1. https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/dXcla8dS_g73tEBxid_AjQ
  2. https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/D-veFf4r2Gxz-1shG6SIAQ
  3. https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/J_IRBGE4EgR0otxKpYpMQw

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