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Retail sales grow at record levels
( 2003-11-18 08:44) (China Daily)

China's retail sales grew 10.2 per cent last month compared with a year ago, the fastest pace since October 2001 when they grew 10.5 per cent.

Last month's retail sales stood at 420.4 billion yuan (US$50.7 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

Retail sales in urban areas rose year-on-year by 11.6 per cent to 274.3 billion yuan (US$33 billion), while those in rural areas rose 7.7 per cent to 146.2 billion yuan (US$17.6 billion), the bureau said.

The "Golden Week" of the National Day holiday from October 1-7 helped boost the country's consumer goods market, it said.

The National Day holiday was the first "Golden Week" after the SARS outbreak was brought under control. Government departments in charge of commerce, transport and tourism tried their best to create a favourable environment for relaxation and shopping, the bureau said.

As a result, the number of people who travelled grew year-on-year by 11.5 per cent and tourism income grew 13.1 per cent.

Sales of retail items such as mobile telephones, cars and furniture also took off, the bureau said.

Sales of telecommunications equipment rose 74.6 per cent in October from a year earlier, it said.

Car sales grew year-on-year by 48.4 per cent, while furniture sales were up 40.4 per cent.

Zhang Liqun, a senior researcher with the State Council's Development Research Centre, said the good performance of retail sales suggests that consumers, after laying low during the SARS outbreak, were now spending.

This is good for China's economy because consumption is one of the three major drivers of economic growth, alongside fixed assets investment and exports, he said.

Zhang said the influence of SARS on China's retail sales and economic development as a whole is more minor than the impact of the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

And it will be easier to overcome than the Asian meltdown or the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, he said.

During the first three quarters, the country's economy grew a year-on-year 8.5 per cent.

Deputy Commissioner Qiu Xiaohua of the statistics bureau predicted it would grow at least 8.5 per cent for the whole year.

Qiu said he was confident the economy would continue to grow at a higher rate in the coming decades.

"Market forces have begun to add fuel to the government-lead economy," he said.

As reforms took effect, market vitality would increase, Qiu said.

Microeconomic factors have also improved, as entrepreneurs and consumers show increased confidence in the future, he said.

The new growth areas of the economy resulting from structural adjustment continue to expand, Qiu said.

The formation of the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and Bohai economic zone, the revival of the old industrial bases in Northeast China, and the further development of the high-tech industry and service sector will all inject new vigour into economic development, he said.

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