Updated: 2011-01-28 12:38
By Xu Junqian (China Daily European Weekly)
It has put Yiwu, a small town of 1.7 million people, of which 1 million are migrants from neighboring cities and countries, squarely on the world map.
Many foreign business people, especially small- to medium-sized importers, are more familiar with Yiwu than even Shanghai.
It is a far cry from the early 1980s, when Feng and hundreds of other street peddlers, the early converts to China's economic reform, were routinely persecuted by city officials, many of whom were ill-equipped to face the changes in the marketplace.
Looking proudly at the miracle she helped built from her living room, Feng says: "I prepared a long speech for the secretary and his team. But as soon as he heard my complaints, he gave me his word that I and other street hawkers would be free to carry on our trade without fear of undue official harassment."
Soon after that, Feng and other hawkers received a bigger surprise in the form of a government invitation to move into a spanking new 4,252-sq-m open market.
In the first year, the hawkers in the market generated a combined revenue of 9.8 million yuan (1.09 million euros), a staggering sum in those days.
Wholesalers in the region began flocking to the new market, which was the first to provide the convenience of having many vendors of a wide range of goods under one roof.
The increase in buyers has, in turn, attracted more and more vendors from neighboring towns to set up shop in the new market, which was soon running out of space.
Foreigners view goods in Yiwu's International Trade Mart. [Han Chuanhao/Xinhua]
In response, the government kept expanding the size of the market by building more and better buildings in zones specified by product categories.
Now, after five relocations and expansion, the market consists of five four-story and fully air-conditioned buildings.
The total revenue of all the vendors in the market amounts to tens of billions of yuan a year.
It is said that if one stops by each stall for three minutes for eight hours a day, it will take one whole year to visit all the stalls.
The Mart has also been credited with spawning a local industrial boom. Many manufacturers have established factories in Yiwu to be close to their shops in the Mart.
Yiwu also plays host to the world largest zipper manufacturer with a daily output of zippers long enough to circle the earth at the equator.
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