Thu, March 26, 2009
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China sculpture town faces crisis

2009-03-26 11:01:41 GMT2009-03-26 19:01:41 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

China's once booming sculpture town sees hundreds of workshops close and at least two thirds workers lose jobs.

A Chinese county dedicated to making European-style sculptures for export has been devastated as international demand crumbles in the global economic crisis.

SCRIPT:

Quyang County in Beijing's neighbouring Hebei province is the "birthplace" of many Western gods and goddesses.

That divine connection, though, has not protected the region from hard times as the global economic crisis slams demand.

At the end of 2008, Quyang employed 50,000 workers, making goods worth $230 million a year.

Zhen Huijiang, manager of Xinlei Sculpture Group, says this year most workers have to leave because of lack of orders.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin with English translation) MANAGER OF XINLEI SCULPTURE GROUP ZHEN HUIJIANG SAYING:

"Last year it was OK, but since the beginning of this year sales have dropped by 60 percent."

Quyang's sculpting skills go back over 2000 years, but it's real boom only began in the 1990s, when the Internet brought orders from Europe.

Many workers are finding it hard to make ends meet.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin with English translation) MIDDLE-AGED MOTHER OF THREE ZHOU YUXIAN SAYING:

"One of my children just got married and I borrowed a few thousand dollars. If we can't make money, there's nothing I can do."

Looking for a lifeline, some managers eye the domestic market, which means catering more to Chinese tastes and a likely switch from Michelangelo to Chairman Mao for the time being.

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