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Barbie Doll Poses Challenge to Mammoth Chinese Toy Industry
Though China boasts the world's largest toy producer, its decades-old, simple and honest Panda has to sit in the corner watching the world's most popular Barbie dollshow off her different dresses and styles.

According to the China Toy Association, China has almost 8,000 toy factories and manufactures an estimated over 70 percent of theworld's total toy products. Last year, the country exported 7.58 billion US dollars worth of toys of various kinds.

However, Chinese-made toys are mostly old-fashioned, with intelligent and electronic ones merely accounting for three percent and 0.6 percent of the total, respectively.

"China needs lots of talented toy designers to turn itself froma big toy maker into a powerful one," said Liang Mei, secretary-general of the China Toy Association.

Liang's view was echoed by Cheng Yunlong, head of the marketing department of Tianjin Kegao Toy Co., Ltd., who said what local toy factories need are well-educated professionals from higher learning institutions.

All the year's 30 graduates of the country's first toy-designer training institution, the Toy Designing faculty of the Tianjin Science and Technology University, have been booked up.

"I really don't know how to distribute this small number of graduates for such a big demand," said Jin Guifang, director of the faculty. Since the faculty was set up in 1987, it has trained over 400 graduates.

As future toy designers, the students study basic knowledge in social and natural sciences. "The students have to be trained to meet the demands of the hi-tech age," said Jin.

David A. Miller, just-retired chairman of the Toy Industry Association of America (TIA), advised his Chinese counterparts to make Made-in-China toys more Chinese, by exploring China's long history and rich cultural heritage.

While American toy designers had to rely on their imagination about the future world due to their country's short history, Chinese designers are lucky to be able to easily find endless clues from their large amount of legendary stories and historic figures, Miller noted.

The industry's shortage of professionals is attracting more colleges to open their own toy-designing departments. Many young students have also pinned high hopes on the fledgling toy industry.

"At first, I applied to the toy-designing faculty only for fun and never thought it would be a profession with great prospects", said Wang Liucheng, a student with the Tianjin Science and Technology University, who is going to graduate next year.

"Now I hope I will be able to design more wonderful toys in thefuture," said the young student.

(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2003)

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