The story of the Chinese “Carrot Knife”

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College student Zhou Wenhao studies marine engineering in the central Chinese city of Wuhan by day. By night, he tinkers with 3D printing machines.

In the summer of 2022, he printed a green and white toy switchblade smaller than the palm of his hand. Zhou named it “carrot knife” because the blade was orange.

A year passed before the carrot knife became the hottest-selling toy among school children across China.

“One agent manufactured 100,000 carrot knives a day during the peak. I estimate that about 10 million to 100 million were sold,” Zhou said. “I sold about 400 to 500 pieces.”

Like many thousands of toys found on Amazon, the carrot knife has no brand or big company behind it. Much like the hoverboard in 2015 and fidget spinners in 2017, these toy fads are driven by the efficiency and competitiveness of the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem, sometimes at the expense of the inventor.

Pickings are a little thin from my normal sources, so I have had to dive down some rabbit holes.  I thought that this was an interesting piece, and if plastic auto “carrot knives” do in fact become the next “fidget spinner” in the States, you will know the back story. China needs to work on its IP laws in a major way if they want to be considered an honest broker in international business. So far that has not seemed a top priority for them.

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