How the world media covered events in China three decades ago
At the start of China's gradual transition from central planning to a free-market economy, foreign exchange certificates were issued in exchange for foreign currency. Most purveyors of goods and services for foreigners, such as hotels and special shops, accepted only the certificates and refused Chinese money.
Ration coupons, which symbolized the central planning economy, were introduced in the 1950s and still widely used in the 1980s. People needed them to buy sugar, cloth and cooking oil.
Use of the certificates and coupons ended in the 1990s.
Reports from the West
New restrictions went into effect Wednesday to keep Chinese from using China's special money for foreigners to buy imported televisions and tape recorders in special stores.
Huge crowds poured into Peking's "Friendship Store" on Monday and Tuesday to beat the restrictions. The store is intended primarily for foreigners and accepts only the certificates issued to foreigners in exchange for foreign currency. The special store's prices are generally cheaper than in Chinese stores.
The Associated Press
July 15, 1981
Theoretically the foreign-exchange certificates are accepted anywhere, but off the beaten tourist path they may not be. Boatwomen in a central Chinese park refused them, asking for "real" money.
"Trickle of foreign money being traded in China"
Christian Science Monitor
Aug 31, 1981
Her title, Maid of Cotton, suggests a staid figure, but Karie Ross is actually an ebullient young woman. A journalism student at the University of Oklahoma, Miss Ross is a goodwill ambassador for the National Cotton Council of the United States. During the next seven months, she will be touring Canada, Spain, China and Japan trying to stir more public interest in cotton garments. Her job will be formidable in China, where cloth is rationed and individual allotments are as low as six meters a year..
"She travels for cotton"
The Globe and Mail
April 14, 1981
Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist at China Galaxy Securities: "Foreign exchange certificates and ration coupons existed because there were supply shortages in the central planning economy. The market economy unleashed our productivity. What we are facing now, however, is an oversupply.Aninvisible hand usuallyleadsmarketsto allocate resources efficiently in a market economy. But our government still plays a big role in many sectors, and the supply and demand were unable to adjust efficiently.Future economic reform is needed."