Aokang Group, one of China's leading privately-owned shoemakers, has agreed a strategic alliance with Italian shoemaker Valleverde that could lead to an investment in the firm.

Under the initial deal, Aokang will make and sell Valleverde shoes worldwide, while the Italian firm will help out in product development and design.

The new alliance also opened the first Valleverde image store in Shanghai earlier this week.

Aokang's chairman, Wang Zhengtao, said the firm hopes to eventually become a strategic investor in Valleverde as part of efforts to expand internationally.

His comments are in line with moves by Chinese shoe makers to raise quality levels in an attempt to boost profits and deflect anti-dumping allegations from western countries.

Aokang, which has five shoe brands and nearly 4,000 sales outlets, is also seeking overseas partners ahead of an initial public offering.

It has set up subsidiaries in the US, India and Hong Kong and its products are sold in over 60 regions and countries.