Los Angeles Times
November 4, 2008
Reporting from Shaoxing, China — First, Tao Shoulong burned his company’s financial books. He then sold his private golf club memberships and disposed of his Mercedes S-600 sedan.
And then he was gone.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
And just like that, China’s biggest textile dye operation — with four factories, a campus the size of 31 football fields, 4,000 workers and debts of at least $200 million — was history.
“We’re pretty much dead now,” said Mao Youming, one of 300 suppliers stiffed last month by Tao’s company, Jianglong Group. Lighting a cigarette in a coffee shop here, the 38-year-old spoke calmly about the bleak future of his industrial gas business. Tao owed him $850,000, Mao said, about 60% of his annual revenue. “We cannot pay our workers’ salaries. We are about to be bankrupt too.”
Government statistics show that 67,000 factories of various sizes were shuttered in China in the first half of the year, said Cao Jianhai, an industrial economics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. By year’s end, he said, more than 100,000 plants will have closed.
As more factories in China shut down, stories of bosses running away have become familiar, multiplying the damage of China’s worst manufacturing decline in at least a decade.