They may not be as outrageous as the lime-green mankini
worn by Borat, yet a new line of Chinese-made men’s underwear is proving to be a hit in Kazakhstan.
The boxer-briefs come in a variety of colors, with details of the Kazakh flag printed inside an outline of the country's borders.
They also have a bright waistband in the blue and yellow colors of Kazakhstan's flag, decorated with the word "Kazakhstan" and a yellow eagle, the symbol of the country.
The underwear has become a hot seller in Kazakh markets, although not for their patriotic design. Like most Chinese-made goods, they're cheap.
The Beibars shopping center in the central town of Karaganda is even selling cheap Chinese slippers featuring the Kazakh flag. Some Kazakhs are not happy
, though, seeing the themed underwear as yet another sign of Chinese encroachment. For instance, Qayirbai-aksaqal, a Karaganda resident, told RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service that he finds them “insulting.”
Chinese-made goods have become a source of concern in Central Asia in recent years. Many believe they are squeezing more pricey domestic products out of the market. Chinese merchandise is often three to five times cheaper than locally made goods. Kazakh hackles went up
late last year when President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that China is interested in renting 1 million hectares of land in Kazakhstan for farming. That led to protests among opposition activists and nationalist groups.
It is a widespread belief in the region that only those who cannot afford higher-quality brands will purchase Chinese clothing. But judging by the hordes of savvy shoppers, the Chinese underwear hawkers aren't likely to go out of business anytime soon.
-- Farangis Najibullah