Employment and trade have been recurring themes in China news lately – namely, plummeting trade due to worldwide economic woes and how China can cope with the resulting job losses to promote social instability. The trade figures continue to worsen – November saw a 22% drop in imports from a year ago, while exports fell around 15%. Officials are managing the situation however they can – Ed Shafer, the US agriculture secretary, said China and America had agreed to resist protectionism in farming during the financial crisis, though he declined to share details of the agreement, and the Chinese government is looking to re-employ the 150,000 to 300,000 jobs it expects will lost when the new fuel tax that goes into effect in the new year.
Companies are coping in the various ways that they can. Container maker CIMC suspended trading of its shares in Shenzhen and – rather than resorting to firing – put 22,000 employees on paid leave (Woohoo! Four-day weekend!). Shanghai Airlines, which has been losing money all year, could get a hefty capital injection on the way to merging with China Eastern. Better-sheltered from the bad news are companies focused on domestic, non-travel-related consumption. Electronics retailer Suning, for example, is using the period to expand pretty aggressively – it’s planning to open 200 new stores and five logistics centers in 2009.