Thu, December 23, 2010
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X'mas : China's new holiday

2010-12-23 11:00:27 GMT2010-12-23 19:00:27 (Beijing Time)  SINA.com

Christians account for less than two percent of China's 1.3 billion population, but you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise as you stroll down Beijing's streets.

Like in most major Chinese cities, the holiday spirit fills the air, with shopping malls, office buildings and restaurants all decorated with bright lights, Christmas trees and Santa Claus dolls.

For most Chinese, it's become a day to shop and enjoy themselves.

For retailers like shop owner Chen Zhenfen, it's boom time.

SOUNDBITE, 45-Year-Old Retail Shop Owner, Chen Zhenfen, saying (Mandarin):

"Business during Christmas is much better than the Chinese New Year, because celebrating Christmas is becoming a popular trend in China. As China is getting westernised, Christmas offerings in clubs and restaurants have become very important to customers."

Chen says she can make as much as 100,000 yuan or $15,000 a day in sales during the Christmas season.

It's clear more Chinese are keen to enjoy the atmosphere, and like Beijing resident, Li Jin, don't mind pulling out their wallets to do so.

SOUNDBITE, 50-Year-Old Property Management Company Employee, Li Jin, saying (Mandarin) :

"I just bought some decorations and small Christmas trees as I had already have some big ones, mainly for creating a kind of Christmas atmosphere and decking the residence compound. I spent roughly 1,000 yuan (about 152 US dollars) today."

For fellow resident Li Ya, it's another reason to spend family time together.

SOUNDBITE, Beijing Resident Li Ya, saying (Mandarin):

"We get together with friends and families to celebrate Christmas, the same as we celebrate the Chinese New Year. The New Year is a traditional festival for all the Chinese, but Christmas has become an important holiday for the young people."

Authorities are encouraging holiday spending as part of Beijing's plans to increase domestic consumption, and reduce reliance and exposure to the export sector.

But economists say it could take years before this happens. Consumer spending accounts for less than half of China's GDP, compared to over two-thirds for the U.S. economy.

(Reuters)

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