Chinese exporters gear up for worst crisis in their miracle rise

CIXI, October 21, 2008 (AFP) – Richard Fan is preparing for what may be the worst crisis of his six-year manufacturing career as the world markets that made his business in eastern China thrive are drying up at an alarming rate.

Standing on the shop floor of Henwei Industrial, which produces everything from bottle openers to first aid kits, he explains how the global crisis has already taken its toll among colleagues here in Cixi East Industrial Zone.

“Some factories have stopped or at least closed temporarily, because they had no orders,” said the casually dressed 38-year-old company owner, a product of the entrepreneurial spirit found in east China’s Zhejiang province.

“It’s not easy this year.”

The Cixi zone, not too long ago a pristine agricultural area of rice fields and fish ponds, thrives on its proximity to Ningbo, a city of six million whose natural harbour makes it a convenient interface with overseas markets.

Anyone older than 20 will tell visitors how drastically trade has changed this area since they were children.

Now, with the United States and Europe potentially buying much less from China, many locals have started worrying how the global economic turmoil may hurt their trade-focused