China has long focused on American consumerism. But it badly lags in availability of a basic feminine hygiene product: the tampon.
A lack of sex education in this country of 1.3 billion has produced a cultural bias against the tampon until now. Eighty years after the product was introduced in America, Chinese women will be able to purchase their first domestically manufactured brand.
Ye Deliang, 51, an electrical engineer from central Henan province, plans to launch Danbishuang tampons this month with a social media campaign that stresses their health benefits.
"It is important China has its own brand of tampon," Ye said. "Every industry needs a pioneer, and I want to be this one's."
There could be quite a market for the items in China, home to 670 million women — 377 million ages 15 to 50 who are most likely to use them. But it will be hard to convince women to switch from a sanitary pad, with 140 billion pads expected to be used this year. Only 2% of Chinese women use tampons, according to a 2015 survey by Cotton Incorporated, an industry marketing group based in North Carolina.
"One in four non-users (in China) say they would be likely to try tampons if they were educated on how to use them," the survey said.
Women in China can now buy imported tampons online and in a high-end shops in big cities, and those customers tend to be urban, under 30 and well-educated.
But there are strong cultural reasons China has not had its own brand until now. Few are taught about menstruation or reproduction, so most Chinese women don't know what a tampon is and fear the myth that using tampons would mean losing their virginity.
"We have a saying in Chinese that, ‘I would rather starve to death than lose my chastity,'" said Li Yinhe, a renowned sexologist in China.
Companies selling imported tampons here say interest has grown dramatically.
Simon Lai, owner of Puff House, a Guangdong-based online store that sells Tampax and Kotex brands from the United States, said sales have doubled in the past year to $750,000.
Wishu, a Shanghai-based company founded by two French nationals, reported a similar trend. Wishu manufactures abroad and sells its own brand of tampons in shops in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.
"For our customers, it's a lifestyle choice," said Wishu's founder, Jeremy Rigaud. "They want to dress well. Do sports. Feel confident at work."
Danbishuang's Ye began noticing increased interest in tampons here about five years ago when he was working as a representative for Johnson & Johnson, maker of o.b. brand tampons.
He opened his own factory in 2010 with some college friends, and they designed the machines themselves.
When Ye graduated from college in 1986, the government assigned him a job in a factory producing medical cotton supplies, like maternity pads and vaginal swabs. He was initially embarrassed about the gynecological nature of his work, but 30 years later, he is comfortable talking about tampons.
During a recent interview in the lobby of a five-star hotel, Ye unwrapped two of his tampons and dropped them in his water glass to show their absorbency.
For his brand to succeed, however, Ye will have to overcome Chinese mistrust of locally made products, especially after a series of safety scandals in recent years, including one involving radioactive sanitary napkins in 2015.
"I would only buy foreign tampons. I don't feel I could trust local ones," said Wang Qingying, 26, a Beijing banker who began using the product in the United States.
Ye said Danbishuang — which means Crimson Jade Cool — will first be sold online, and then he'll make a push for sport centers to stock the product. He also plans to approach "mom and baby" stores, because he says new mothers are less nervous about using tampons.
Ye will market his tampon as a way to be active with young children. But he does not plan to market it to girls under 18, and Danbishuang will carry a warning that teenagers shouldn't use the product.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency ran a recent article about Danbishuang, saying tampons are more comfortable and hygienic than pads.
"Chinese women feel like they are facing a huge enemy when they get their period," the article said. "Western and American women can still maintain a stable life … going to parties, wearing nice clothes and exuding female charm. ... Tampons are their secret weapon."