Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and a host of other Walt Disney characters are coming back to China to a chain of special stores aimed at cash-flush consumers.

The official China Daily said Monday that new stores called "Mickey's Corner" would sell Disney-brand products in six major cities beginning next month.Disney pulled its characters out of China some eight years ago after initial efforts to market the cartoon images spawned huge numbers of Chinese counterfeits, the newspaper said.

"The company believes that now is the best time to re-enter the Chinese market, since China and the United States reached a memorandum on intellectual property rights protection," the newspaper said.

Under pressure from trading partners led by Washington, Beijing has vowed to tighten copyright protection - although infringement is still common.

The Disney stores, set to open first in Beijing, Shanghai, Canton, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Chengdu will be administered by the Shenzhen Trading Center.

"A total of 300 such shops and special counters in mainland department stores will open by 1995," the newspaper said.

Disney is joining a host of other Western companies that are looking for ways to exploit China's growing consumer boom.

McDonalds MCD recently opened a huge fast-food restaurant in Beijing, while expensive clothing stores such as Benetton and Stefanel have also opened outlets.