"So far, either these measures have not come out as quickly or have not had as much effect" as Beijing wanted, Wang said. "So I think the government, along the lines of modest easing, will do a little bit more."
Real estate poses another dilemma. The industry traditionally has been China's biggest growth driver, fueling spending on construction and home furnishings. But high housing costs divert money away from consumer spending that Chinese leaders are trying to encourage and are politically dangerous for the ruling Communist Party by eroding economic gains that underpin its claim to power.
Premier Wen Jiabao affirmed Beijing's resolve to keep most controls on real estate in place, saying in March that while prices had eased slightly from their mid-2011 highs, they were still far above "reasonable levels."
"The authorities have just not found a new industry is big enough to replace the vigor that the real estate industry had for boosting the economy," said Song Huiyong, director of research for Shanghai Centaline Property, a real estate broker.
"The authorities just want to stall for time," Song said.
Other policies used in 2008, such as subsidies for appliance purchases by rural families, have run out of steam and left producers with excess manufacturing capacity.
Beijing might be reacting too slowly, said Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist for Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, in a report this week.
Policymakers "are increasingly looking behind the curve," Kowalczyk said. "Insistence that a growth slowdown is the price to pay for structural reforms makes sense in the long run, but — if taken too far — it threatens the medium-term growth targets."
China's struggling entrepreneurs are likely to be of little help in boosting demand as they put off investment amid plunging revenues.
Entrepreneurs that survived the 2008 crisis, which forced thousands of export-dependent factories to close, began to feel a new chill last autumn as global demand sagged. The slump has spread inland as domestic demand also weakens.
"We are getting fewer business inquiries. Market demand is weaker and we have less room for profit," said Gao, the manufacturer of oil equipment in Taiyuan.
Orders by foreign buyers at the spring session of the Canton Trade Fair, the country's biggest annual export sales event, were down 4.8 percent from a year earlier, the government newspaper China Daily reported.
In Wenzhou, a southeastern hub for private business, entrepreneurs cannot get credit from state banks, said Zhou Dewen, head of a small business association. That is despite a pledge by Beijing to increase private sector lending there after a wave of defaults last year by borrowers who were forced to turn to underground lenders.
"Businesspeople should brace themselves for hard times," Zhou said. "I don't think the situation will improve this year, but let's see how it will go next year."
AP researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report. Kurtenbach reported from Shanghai.
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