It’s no secret that auto sales have been suffering in recent months, and now we know just how much: For the entire year of 2008, car sales rose only 7.3%, the slowest growth in at least 10 years. Given that number, one might be forgiven for a certain level of incredulity at the government target of 10% auto sales growth in 2009 – especially since some officials are now saying that the country might not meet its macro targets. No less a pair of men than Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan have now said that the mystical 8% growth figure (which is still being bandied about as the do-or-die number, despite little clear evidence to that effect) may be very difficult to achieve this year. Their pessimism will likely be fueled by new trade numbers, which show that both imports and exports dropped in December, by 21.3% and 2.8%, respectively. In the midst of a global downturn, at least state media companies have something to smile about. Beijing is planning to spend US$6.6 billion to fund global expansions of CCTV, Xinhua and the People’s Daily.