Economic slide takes fizzle from fireworks

Updated: 2012-01-31 08:00

By Wu Yong and Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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SHENYANG / BEIJING - The slowing economy took some of the pop and sizzle out of the Spring Festival's fireworks this year.

"I used to sell tens of thousands of yuan worth in one day," said Li Lan, owner of a fireworks stall in Shenyang, Liaoning province.

"But it is bad now. The fireworks business is not what it once was," complained Li, who has sold fireworks for almost 10 years.

Road cleaners from Shenyang picked up about 80 tons of fireworks trash on Sunday, the first day after China's Lunar New Year holiday.

That is down about 20 percent of in 2011 and 40 percent from 2010.

The decline is echoed by Jinghua Times, which says Beijing's firework trash was about 5,500 tons, a decrease of 16 percent from last year.

"The sagging economy may have the Chinese worried," said Shao Jianbin, a macroeconomics professor at Liaoning University.

"It is reasonable for them to cut spending under such negative expectations of the future," he said.

He said he believes fireworks sales is one of a handful of indicators suggesting that holiday shoppers might be slowed by the economic pain that characterized the rest of the year.

"Compared with fireworks, I prefer playing card games or cooking with my parents," said Gong Cheng, 25.

"It doesn't matter how much noise we make with the fireworks. It's more important that family members, scattered all over the country, get together during the festival," said Cheng, who works in Beijing and returned to Central China's Hunan province to be with family during Chinese New Year.

"I'm not into fireworks and haven't set off any for years," said Feng Shuang, 25, a Beijing local. "I had dinner with my parents and went to a cafe with my husband. I just want a break from the busy work."

Beyond economic worries, the traditional fireworks market was also eroded by concerns for environmental protection.

Wang Qiuxia, a researcher at the Green Beagle, an environmental protection non-governmental organization based in Beijing, which appealed to the public to set off fewer fireworks during the festival, said she was glad to see a decrease of fireworks during the holiday.

"It's definitely a step forward," said Wang. "Hopefully the public could set off fewer fireworks as well during the upcoming Lantern Festival."

Wang also said despite fewer fireworks, the air had still been seriously polluted.

China Daily

(China Daily 01/31/2012 page4)