BEIJING'S actions to curb copyright infringement may pave the way for leading United States sports footwear to enter the mainland market. Russell Lee, executive director of the Hong Kong-based sports footwear giant KTP, said fake products had made sales of branded athletic and leisure footwear in China extremely difficult. Although many American household names such as Reebok were eager to gain a slice of the Chinese market, the popularity of fake products had kept sales low. The average price for branded athletic shoes such as Reebok is about $500, five times that of fake products. Low living standards and lack of consumer knowledge were the two main reasons for the slow growth in sales of the genuine products, Mr Lee said. 'The consumers in China do not have sufficient knowledge to differentiate what is fake and what is not. 'As long as there is the label, they will go for it,' he said. 'Besides, the living standards are not high enough and branded athletic footwear is beyond the affordability of the man in the street.' Unlike Hong Kong and the US, China does not have a middle class which can readily absorb high-end products. However, with more than one billion mainland people in mind, Mr Lee is optimistic about the prospect of penetrating the Chinese market. In about five years' time, the mainland market would be mature enough to take in more high-end footwear, he predicted, adding that the group's long-term plan was to penetrate the Chinese market where the group has production facilities. By that time, facilities such as the legal system in China would also be improved to enhance sales. The group has established 21 production lines in China which turn out about 800,000 to 900,000 pairs of shoes a month compared with the 750,000 to 800,000 pairs in Indonesia.