Light Industry Developing by Leaps and Bounds

The ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000) has marked a new stage in the light industry sector, with the output value of major enterprises reaching 1.64 trillion yuan (US$198.7 billion) in 1999.

The value has increased 11-fold since 1978, or 12.6 percent annually.

The industry's pre-tax profits also scaled to new heights of 195.7 billion yuan (US$23.6 billion), 10 times that of 1978.

In the five-year period, the output of many products greatly expanded. The production of some items including bicycles, household ceramics, irons, refrigerators and washing machines now rank first in the world.

The growth in quantity is accompanied by an advance of quality. Many domestic enterprises have been certified by the International Standards Organization and selected as world-level providers. As a result, light industry goods made in China have built up a good reputation on the world market.

Enormous market demand has fueled enterprises and pushed reliance on a market-oriented strategy, say experts. Firms are not only earning more money but are also improving their management. And more than 100 light industry companies have gone public.

In particular, non-state enterprises enjoyed strong growth in the last five years and have contributed to one-third of China's light industry production.

Conglomerates have mushroomed up within the industry. For example, 75 percent of refrigerator output is attributed to the six largest manufacturers in the sector. China's electric giant Haier Group has already achieved a sales income of more than 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) this year.

Light industry development has also greatly stimulated exports, which increased 9.8 percent annually in the first four years of the plan to reach US$58.4 billion.

The rapid progress of China's light industry has attracted many foreign investors. The industry has over 20,000 foreign-funded enterprises, scattered from the coastal areas to the western region.

The industry has used US$40 billion in foreign funds, with US$35 billion in direct investment.

Chinese enterprises are also dipping their toes into foreign markets. There are currently about 300 branches and factories which have been set up in more than 30 foreign regions and countries.

To a large extent, the achievements of China's light industry have been attributed to technological innovations.

More than 2,775 enterprises in the sector have established research departments and employed 138,000 professional talents. The efforts have rewarded them with 6 billion yuan (US$724.7 million) each year in the sale of new products.

(China Daily 10/22/2000)