The first U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association 2007 China Mission, held Sept. 2-6 and organized by U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association and China Ceramics City, brought a wealth of information to Chinese participants who were eager to learn how to succeed in the American market, while at the same time fulfilling the trade mission goals of participating U.S. distributors.

The ancient Nanfeng Kiln (referred to as a Dragon Kiln because of its shape) was built during the Ming Dynasty by Emperor Zhengde (1506-1521). The fire in this 34.4 meter long kiln has never been extinguished. It's name, Nanfeng, comes from the Chinese word for south, which is the direction kiln's mouth faces south.


Local sightseeing in Foshan included the 500-year-old Nanfeng Kiln, the oldest continuously operating ceramic kiln in the world. Here craftsmen demonstrate ancient throwing and spinning techniques used for centuries.

China is many things to many people, but for the ceramic tile industry, the country is a venerable powerhouse that has been making a rapid ascent as a supplier to the U.S.

A few short years ago, tile from China was almost non-existent outside of the country, despite the fact that even then, China was the world’s largest producer of ceramic tile. However, China finds itself today as one of the top five tile importing nations serving the rapidly growing U.S. tile market. Judging from the recently held trade mission to China Ceramics City, the more than 100 participating Chinese tile producers and affiliates are eager to demonstrate they have the resources, capability and determination to earn the number one position.

Located in Foshan in central Guangdong province (once known as Canton), an hour from Guangzhou and a short hop from Hong Kong, China Ceramics City is an impressive five-story, 174,000 square foot structure that houses nearly 170 showrooms displaying an array of tile and sanitary ware, primarily from this region but also from other domestic and international producers. Foshan also happens to be the home of the ancient Nanfeng Kiln, the oldest continuously operating ceramic kiln which dates back more than 500 years to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

U.S. and Chinese delegates show their appreciation for each other’s countries during the gala banquet.

Averaging several hundred visitors per day, China Ceramics City serves as a world-class showplace “to the trade” where domestic and international buyers come to see, shop and buy tile and sanitary ware. It is also home to the international ceramic trade fair - China Ceramics & Sanitary Ware Fair Foshan - held biannually in October and April, and the International Architectural Design and Ceramics Conference, which is held annually.

According to the U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association, the country’s ceramic tile industry:
  • Supplies 12.7% of all U.S. ceramic tile imports;
  • Fourth largest ceramic tile exporter to U.S.;
  • U.S. imports from China increased 53.9% in 2006;
  • Foshan accounts for 60% of China’s total output.
Nearby, one will also find multistoried showrooms from some of the world’s largest tile producers with relatively unfamiliar names to U.S. consumers, such as Dong Peng, Kito, and Eagle Brand. Construction is underway to further expand China Ceramics City with a facility five times larger than its current size, more than 900,000 square feet.

Tile Trade Mission presenters take a moment before delivering their various Trade Forum presentations: (from left) Phil Johnson, Group Publisher, BNP Media; and Andy Peng, U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association founder, and president of Bravura International Corp.

The first U.S. China Ceramic Tile Trade Mission, held September 2-6, brought a wealth of information to Chinese participants who were eager to learn how to succeed in the American market, while at the same time fulfilling the trade mission goals of participating U.S. distributors: to facilitate sourcing from quality manufacturers in China; to assist participants in gaining first-hand market information; and access to key industry leaders and potential business partners.

Keynoting the program was Rob Henry, president of the Robert F. Henry Tile Co. and vice president of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), followed by a report by Phil Johnson, Group Publisher of TILE Magazine and National Floor Trends magazine on the U.S. flooring market produced by BNP Media’s Clear Seas Research division.

In the presentation by Miao Bin, Secretary-General of the China Building Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Association, “The Present Conditions and Future of China’s Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Industry,” Bin provided a detailed report of the growth rate and expectations of China’s tile manufacturing community. (See sidebar: “China’s Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Industry”).

Highlighting key research findings and data from recent Clear Seas Research Market Trends studies (conducted through National Floor Trends and TILE Magazine), as well as various housing reports and U.S. Census Data, Johnson’s discussion included up-to-date findings on dealer and distributor perceptions, as well as future expectations of Chinese tile. According to the findings, most U.S. dealers and distributors polled said they expected their purchases of Chinese tile to increase over the next several years. Also on the program’s forum was Billy Chu of Champion Building Materials who discussed environmental leadership in tile manufacturing. Chu pointed out that the operation of their CE-certified manufacturing included ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications.

One thing was made clear by the end of the first trade mission: the Chinese ceramic tile manufacturers wanted the U.S. delegates to understand that their products are developed with advanced technology, complete with quality controls and styling capabilities expected from the U.S. market.

Plans are already underway for the U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association 2008 China Mission. More information will be available as details are finalized.

For the complete story on this trade mission, and additional information, make sure to read the November 2007 issue of TILE Magazine.

China’s annual ceramic tile production rate (measured in square meters) from 1997 to 2006 shows an increase in momentum and growth over the years.

Sidebar: "The Present Conditions and Future of China's Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Industry"

"The Present Conditions and Future of China’s Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Industry," delivered by Miao Bin, Secretary-General of the China Building Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Association, during the U.S. China Ceramic Trade Forum, unveiled an in-depth categorization and analysis of the Chinese tile manufacturing community’s current conditions and future outlook.

The Guangdong region of China topped other leading provinces - more than 75-percent - in the export of its building ceramics products in 2006. The Fujian province (with 15.83-percent, comes in second.



From 2004 to 2006, the major export markets of Chinese-made ceramic tiles are lead by Singapore and Hong Kong, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Korea following closely.