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China Enter the Dragon
When the world’s industrial centre of gravity shifted eastward many years ago, China rapidly emerged as the largest exporter of goods globally.
By: Diamond World News Service
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May 4 2011 3:54PM
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Reference: 5971  

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Since the early part of the 21st century however, it is the country’s rising importance as a centre of consumption, particularly in the luxury sector, that has caused ripples of excitement. As older, mature markets stuttered and slumped during and after the 2008 financial crisis, the Chinese dragon continued to breathe fire, taking the excitement to fever pitch. Analysts now believe that China will emerge as the world’s largest importer by the middle of the current decade.

The diamond and jewellery industry in the country has also mirrored this change – while the focus was on Chinese manufacturing skills for much of the last decade, currently it is the potential of the market that has taken centre stage. China was one of the countries (along with India) that glittered amidst the recessionary gloom, helping the beleaguered diamond industry ride out one of the roughest patches it had ever seen.

Briefly tracing the history of how a society where conspicuous consumption was once frowned upon is now one of the top diamond jewellery markets in the world, Stephen Rego takes a closer look at the new giant in the Far East.

In mid 2010, Stephen Lussier, CEO, Forevermark talking to a journalist in New York, described China as “the most visible incremental-demand driver”, while noting that the country, along with India, “may soon account for half of the diamond industry’s global growth over the next few years”.

Some years earlier, the same Lussier, in another interview, had recalled his first visit in 1989 to the land that had till then remained cut off from the social and economic culture of the west by a Great Wall. "There were no shops selling diamond jewellery. When I talked to people they said they remembered from their school textbooks that diamonds were used in drill bits and had some vague knowledge of American film stars wearing diamond jewellery. I left the country thinking it was going to be a long haul," he is reported to have said.

That ‘long haul’ has today begun yielding some dramatic results. The De Beers Annual Report for 2010 not only reports that its rise in profit and sales of diamond globally was driven among other things by “strong demand from India and China,” but Acting Chief Executive Bruce Cleaver explained further during a post results conference call that China and India delivered “extraordinary growth, well beyond our expectation at 25 per cent and 31 per cent respectively for the year.”

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