A record 74.4 percent of China-based Japanese manufacturers responding to a poll posted operating profits in 2003, the Japan External Trade Organization said Tuesday.

The government-affiliated JETRO began the survey on Japanese manufacturers operating in other Asian countries in the current method in 1999.

A total 321 companies responded to the survey, which was conducted in March and April, JETRO said.

The previous high of 72.7 percent was recorded in 2000. The figure was up from 67.5 percent in 2002 due to the growing Chinese economy, JETRO said.

The survey showed that Japanese manufacturers are eager to invest more in China, with 81.5 percent saying they will expand their operations there over the next one to two years, up 10.3 percentage points from the previous year.

But a growing number of companies said their earnings results are likely to remain flat in the current year, and fewer manufacturers said their earnings are expected to improve, indicating the economic growth in China may slow or come to a halt.

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