Saturday, February 28, 2009

De-Coupling? Not!

SHAOXING, China — This was a city that globalization built.

Not long ago, 20,000 textile and garment factories were bustling here, crowded with workers knitting and sewing for six, and sometimes seven, days a week to produce the wares sold at big American retailers like Gap and Wal-Mart.

Now, demand is waning in the United States, and Shaoxing, a coastal city that is one of the world’s biggest textile centers, has fallen victim to the global downturn.

Factories here are closing. Some bosses have fled town, leaving thousands of workers in the lurch. And other owners are worried about mounting debts and the prospect of bankruptcy.

Qian Jin, an industry expert, says Chinese textile companies are suddenly in a “struggle for survival.” A warning from Beijing last December was dire, too: As many as two-thirds of the country’s textile and apparel companies could go broke.

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