Once China's hottest consumer product, the bicycle is fast falling by the wayside. Stuck in a highly competitive but low-tech sunset industry, bike companies are facing an uphill struggle. One Tianjin manufacturer, however, thinks otherwise. 'As long as there are people, there will be a market,' Tianjin Fushida (Group) president Fu Changhua said. Although the private company's production volume is expected to decline to 300,000 bikes this year, down from last year's 450,000, it has argued the decrease is a result of a product restructuring process. It plans to introduce new products, adding to its current list of 100 models. Mr Fu said China's bike market was in an unstable and transitional period adjusting to the workings of a market economy with a socialist slant. 'The question is when China's bicycle market will move on to the right path,' he said. 'People say two years but I think it will be longer.' Official figures published last month showed China's annual bicycle production capacity at between 60 million and 70 million, with actual production of 40 million and domestic demand of 30 million. Half the country's 70 major producers were in the red, the figures showed. Canada and the European Union have imposed anti-dumping restrictions on Chinese-made bikes.This has contributed to a domestic glut, because bikes originally destined for these markets have been sold locally. A flood of joint-venture factories since the mid-1980s has seen output surge. Tianjin officials reckon this is the most difficult time for manufacturers as the city's enterprises struggle to shake off the rigid practices of a planned economy. A victim of the changes is the famous household name Flying Pigeon, where production has come to a virtual standstill. The plight of the state-owned bike manufacturer has stemmed from the common difficulties facing most state-owned enterprises - heavy debts and the burden of supporting its workers from cradle to grave. With production facilities ageing, efficiency has become a remote dream. 'It cannot rely entirely on the city government, therefore it can only stop production,' Mr Fu said. Vice-mayor Ye Disheng conceded the bike industry was losing importance to hi-tech industries, such as steel and petrochemicals. However, he outlined some survival strategies for enterprises such as Flying Pigeon. These included joining hands with international companies to develop new models and expanding into Third World countries or inland provinces. Mr Fu believed the market could go beyond these areas. He said the key was to make production hi-tech. The bicycle industry's waning fortunes have taken their toll on Tianjin Fushida's profits. For every model sold in 1992, the company made a profit of 150 yuan, but this had since fallen to five yuan, Mr Fu said. Traffic congestion in urban areas has limited the demand for bikes. There are 7.8 million on Tianjin roads, but city officials said it was a vicious cycle. 'This is a serious problem facing the development of the public transport system as more people resort to using bicycles to avoid the congestion on the roads,' public transport management department deputy head Wang Jingkai said. He said there was not enough space on the roads to accommodate so many vehicles and bikes. This meant the number of buses and light buses would be controlled. 'Our plan is to provide various types of transportation so as to gradually phase out the use of bicycles in the city.'