The Manchurian Harleys

May 20, 2013


China Daily reported this morning that thirteen American Harley riders rolled into Tai’an last week. Tai’an is a city of about 5.5 million people in Western China south of Beijing. The riders are participants in the “Ride to Confucius” tour, which is arranged by a suburban Philadelphia company named Knighthawk Tours LLC.

It is the second Ride to Confucius Tour. The first was five years ago. Later this year Knighthawk will sponsor two equivalent Harley tours for Chinese riders to Americana destinations like Nashville.

The American riders now in China are travelling with a police escort arranged by the Shandong Tourism Bureau because it is technically illegal to ride an electric motorcycle, horse, bicycle or a motorcycle with an engine larger than 250 cc on a highway in the People’s Republic. The last stop on the tour is Jinan, capital of Shandong province which was the philosopher Confucius’ home.

People’s HOG

Despite the legal restrictions, there are now eight Harley dealerships and six Harley Owner’s Group chapters in China. The Motor Company sells 14 models as well as apparel and general merchandise there.

Earlier this month a reported one thousand Chinese HOG members rode, shipped or trailered their bikes to Qian Dao Lake, in Zhejiang Province to celebrate Harley’s 110th birthday. A Reuters News Service photographer named Carlos Barria took an interesting series of shots of the rally and you can view them here.

Harley is drooling over China. Lifted mostly by an unsustainable and doomed real estate bubble, the world’s most populous nation is currently the world’s second largest economy.

Last month Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spent a week in the People’s Republic pushing Harleys and Oskosh trucks. He attended the opening of a Harley dealership in Tianjian and, according to multiple news reports, he attended a “Harley Party” in Shanghai in black leather costume. Walker also shared an hour with Xi Jinping, who is China’s President, General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. “I have seen tremendous achievements in urban development, a vibrant economy and fabulous people in pursuit of personal freedom,” the Governor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also said Chinese are drawn “to the leisure motorcycling lifestyle.”


Nobody commutes to work on a Harley in China, although the country has millions of motorcycle commuters. Motorcycle license plates are difficult to get there. China bans all motorcycles that are more than nine-years-old. And the average cost of a Harley in Shanghai or Beijing is $32,500 which is about four times the average annual salary.

Harleys in China are marketed as symbols of “freedom.” Harley is selling a jacket in China that has “freedom” printed on the sleeves. China’s Vogue called it the “freedom jacket” in a story published in February. It is an ironic marketing campaign for the world’s largest totalitarian state but it seems to be working.

Harley isn’t the only consumer products company in China that is using “freedom” in its marketing.

The marketing is working because “freedom” means something different in Chinese than in English. Volvo, Hyundai, Audi, Lenovo, and Adidas all brag to Chinese that buying their products symbolizes freedom. A current Chinese ad campaign for iced tea features Avril Lavigne who explains that the beverage can make you free. But freedom there doesn’t mean voting for who you want or coming and going as you please. The marketing concept of “freedom” in China means “joining the leisure class.”


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15 Responses to “The Manchurian Harleys”

  1. Tetelestai Says:

    Freedom has a different meaning in America today as well. Will be obsolete in a few years. Maybe I can sell my Harley to the Chinese when they are banned here.

  2. Snow Says:

    Fuck Harley, fuck China, fuck the system that promotes this bullshit.

  3. BigV Says:

    The Chinese sell entire Panhead and Knucklehead engines, now. They used to list them on Alibaba, but the MoCo bitched and they were taken down. V-Twin Mfg had castings for Pan, Knuck, and Flathead done in Korea. Anything in South Korea gets copied and heads North. From North Korea it crosses the border and hits China.

    I have seen a 61ci all Chinese Pan and it looked okay but the metallurgy was wrong, and I’d think the best use for it would be a display piece where no one could get very close.

    To Quote Snow: “Fuck Harley, fuck China, fuck the system that promotes this bullshit.”

    Amen, sir !

  4. One Eye Says:

    “Fuck Harley, fuck China, fuck the system that promotes this bullshit.”

    Hard to argue with this statement.

  5. IO Says:

    But freedom there doesn’t mean voting for who you want or coming and going as you please. The marketing concept of “freedom” in China means “joining the leisure class.”

    Could very well be describing the USofA.

  6. swampy Says:

    What, no portrait of Mao on them there “cuts?” – lol. Let’s see, thirty-two five for a Harley in China. I guess they have their own “rub culture.”

    Great statement, Snow, concise and to the point; my sentiments also.
    Respects, swampy

  7. Snow Says:

    Thank you, much respect sent in return.
    Hope all is well with any readers in the North Texas, Ok., Kansas areas

  8. Tricky WWB Says:

    What Snow said

  9. Va. Bob Says:

    [email protected] they were cool and didn’t give a fuck,there’d be some homage to Chiang Kai-Shek on their cuts.

  10. Sieg Says:

    There’s a good bit of history with the Chinese and HD. I disremember the exact details, got ’em somewhere and will look, but once upon a time, HD licensed a plant in China to produce a Bagger. I do believe it was in the late-forties, but I could well be off. They were pretty much exact copies, locally made. They also licensed a company in India to make ’em, that one I know I got in an old ER.

    Fuck ’em all.

    Respects to all worthy, I’m off to spend Memorial Day in my favorite Fed facility.

    5 to 1

  11. WARTHOG Says:





  12. Grumbler Says:

    Sieg – That was actually at a Japanese plant near Tokyo in 1935 when production began under the brand name Rikuo, which aptly means King of the Road.

    Hopefully, your Memorial Day sojourn will pass quickly.

  13. Frequent Flyer Says:


    Take pride in knowing the bastards that judge, oppress, and incarcerate you, are stooges and leeches and their boss looks like a fucking raccoon, HE’S A RODENT.

    The top LEO in the United States of America is a lying scumbag.



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