Updated: 2011-01-28 12:38
By Xu Junqian (China Daily European Weekly)
The International Trade Mart in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, has become a showcase for China's manufacturing prowess in what was once a poverty-stricken township. [provided to China Daily]
Yiwu's Mart is the world's largest market for commodities - and it is still growing
Feng Aiqian, 71, lights her third cigarette of the morning and looks out from her apartment. Feng, who previously peddled needles and thread on the streets of Yiwu in Zhejiang province, gets a full view of the city's 4-million-square-meter International Trade Mart, which is made up of five warehouse buildings linked by footbridges.
"We were often chased off the streets by the authorities and had our goods confiscated," Feng recalls. She was in her early 40s then, with a family of five to feed.
"Those people in uniform were making life very difficult for us poor people from the farm, trying to make a living in town," she says.
On a hot summer day in 1982, she cornered the town's Party secretary Xie Gaohua outside the city hall and asked him for help.
Xie listened to her complaints and accepted her suggestion to assign a lot of vacant land near the center of town for street vendors like herself to hawk their ware.
Feng was among the first vendors in Yiwu to move into the new open market that year.
The market for local vendors has since blossomed into a showcase for China's manufacturing prowess in what was once a poverty-stricken rural township.
Housed in the warehouses are 62,000 stalls of various sizes selling more than 400,000 different kinds of consumer goods, ranging from euro-a-piece key chains to exotic tube amplifiers costing thousands of euros each.
Together, they represent 80 percent of the commodity categories listed by the United Nations.
Yiwu's "Mart", as it is called in Yiwu, is the world's largest market for commodities.
Nobody keeps count of the combined sales generated from under those roofs. But every day, hundreds of foreign buyers from the United States, Europe and other regions romp through the spacious halls looking for what they want to ship home in bulk.
The trade mart has served for nearly three decades as the outlet for thousands of manufacturers of small consumer goods in China's industrial powerhouse of the Yangtze River Delta region.
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