Frugality campaign, smog sour fireworks sales
The approaching Lunar New Year festivities used to mean big business for He Jianwu, senior executive of a fireworks manufacturing plant in Hunan province.
However, an ongoing frugality campaign by the central government and lingering smog that has plagued most of eastern and northern China this month have dealt his company a heavy blow.
He is chairman of Hunan Dream Fireworks Co, which has participated in many domestic art and music festivals in the past. So far this year, He has not received a single government call to bid on fireworks shows.
A circular released in late November by the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the country’s top disciplinary watchdog, urged officials not to buy fireworks and firecrackers with public funds during holidays.
Many local governments and enterprises have responded to the call and canceled fireworks shows planned during holidays.
During the one-week Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on Jan 31, many Chinese normally set off fireworks and firecrackers to celebrate.
Although fireworks- triggered accidents happen every year, many people consider fireworks an essential part of their lives, especially at weddings and during Chinese New Year.
Many Beijing residents still have fresh memories of a fireworks gala during Lantern Festival in February 2009 at the China Central Television building, which caused a fire that killed one firefighter and injured six others, as well as injuring two construction workers.
“The domestic fireworks market has shrunk significantly as enterprises have followed the government’s call and reduced their budgets for fireworks shows,” said Li Dingping, Party chief of the Liuyang Fireworks and Firecrackers Administration Bureau.
It is still uncertain if huge fireworks stocks, which are significantly larger than in previous years, will be sold in the coming month, Li said.
Weather is another factor that will affect sales, he said.
“Many cities temporarily banned fireworks in the event of serious pollution in previous years,” he said. “It’s hard to forecast the weather conditions during Spring Festival.”
Liuyang produces about 40 percent of China’s fireworks and firecrackers.
Posts calling for people not to set off firecrackers during the upcoming festival are circulating on social media platforms, including Sina Weibo, and WeChat, a popular mobile text and voice messaging application.
Many have pledged not to set off firecrackers in a bid for cleaner air.
A recent online survey on Sina Weibo organized by Zheng Yuanjie, a renowned Chinese fairytale writer, showed that 85 percent of 1,585 respondents agreed not to set off firecrackers during Spring Festival.
To survive this predicament, fireworks manufacturers are developing environmentally friendly products and tapping rural markets, which are less affected by air pollution.
A man shops for fireworks in Beijing at a distribution point the local government authorized to sell such products.