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China tries to revive economy despite daunting challenges
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Although China doesn't celebrate Christmas, Lou Qijun is one of the many Chinese toy and gift manufacturers who anticipates a visit from Santa Claus every year in the form of seasonal orders from the Europe and North America.

Not so this year, says Lou, chairman of Yiwu Qiling Toys Co. Ltd., a leading toy producer in east China's Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province, after returning from the Canton Fair, the country's biggest trade show which concluded on Thursday.

Lou's Christmas orders from Europe and the United States down by more than a third. The financial crisis has forced Western families to tighten their purse-strings this Christmas.

Lou says their busy season in Yiwu, a major production base, usually runs from June to October, as big foreign toy companies generally place their Christmas orders months in advance. "It is a pity we have not seen a rush of orders so far this year."

Lou and his peers have also been disturbed by cancelled orders. Lou's plant had about 8 percent of Christmas tree orders cancelled because many small outlets in Europe and the United States had pulled back orders from intermediary purchasers who signed agreements with Lou.

Lou is simply one of many toy makers who has fallen victim to deepening global economic downturn that has gripped the West. Many foreign buyers became extremely cautious this year, either cutting purchases or putting short-term orders, according to a survey by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC).


The financial crisis that originated on Wall Street and swept the world has gone beyond the toy sector and bitten into the Chinese economy.

Chinese manufacturers from other export-oriented sectors, including textiles, garments and shoes, also felt the pinch of slackening demand. Over the past two months, many labor-intensive factories have shut down, including those run by large Hong Kong-listed manufacturers, leaving massive numbers of workers jobless.

China Customs figures show exports, a major driving force of the national economy, at US$1.07 trillion in the first three quarters. Although 22.3 percent up from the same period last year, the growth rate was 4.8 percentage points lower.

During the same period, China's GDP growth slowed to 9.9 percent, down 2.3 percentage points from the same period last year and falling to single figures for the first time in five years.

The slowdown of the Chinese economy, the world's fourth largest, is partly due to shrinking demand from abroad and partly to worsening downward pressure from weak domestic demand, a consequence of an inadequate social security system, and higher costs of raw materials and labor, which have hurt corporate investment.

Lingering inflationary pressure reined in domestic demand, experts said. In the nine months from September 2007, the CPI had signaled caution.

China's consumer price index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation, rose 4.6 percent in September over the same period last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The figure was markedly down from 7.1 percent in June, 6.3 percent in July, 4.9 percent in August and a near 12-year-high of 8.7 percent in February.

"The figure indicated the government's measures to tame inflation were effective, and the inflationary pressure has been greatly eased," said Zhuang Jian, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) economist.

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