US trade war fears ripple through China's 'workshop of the world'

“The US is a huge market and some of the companies, especially those less competitive, may be washed out,” said Danny He, the founder of Alpha Lighting, a small LED maker in Dongguan with 100 workers.

In interviews with six other Chinese manufacturers of LED lighting products, another affected sector, four expect some closures of Chinese factories, particularly those making more generic products like bulbs and LED panels.

Places like Dongguan, with large clusters of grittier industrial plants, are especially vulnerable.

Dongguan’s economic growth of 8.1 percent last year while robust, doesn’t fully reflect its long struggle to upgrade rusting factories and catch up with the likes of neighbouring technology powerhouse Shenzhen.

“If you are those without special technology or products, you will die,” said Rose Qiu, a director with Zhejiang Fonda Technology, another LED maker.

Jacky Patel, the president of OM Lighting, an exporter of Chinese lighting products to several US states including Florida, said the tariffs would be passed onto US consumers.

“The customer will have to pay 30 to 35 percent more.”

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