China’s footwear industry churned out six billion pairs of shoes last year of which nearly four billion pairs valued at around $9.7 billion were exported to other countries.

According to figures from the China Leather Industry Association (CLIA), its shoe makers produce 53 per cent of the world’s total output with that figure expected to rise to 55 per cent in 2002.

But the association’s vice-chairman, Zhang Shuhua, said that despite its success the country is struggling to improve its image from that of a producer of a low-cost footwear.

Zhang said the industry aims to become world leader by 2020 and create at least three well-known brands by 2010.

"China is truly a large manufacturer and exporter in the international shoemaking industry, but the reality we have to face is 'Made in China' is still a synonym for low-end shoes," she told the Beijing Morning Post.

But she added: "China does not have its own brands, and the prices are the lowest."