The image of China as the world’s industrial estate, thick black smoke from factory chimneys cloaking villages, towns and cities alike, has never been stronger.
The race to become the world’s next superpower has taken on a grimly apocalyptic hue, with other nations such as India and Brazil making large strides in a positive direction, while being weighed back down by corruption, poverty and violence. Hey, welcome to Earth!
Now, in a setting ripped from the pages of a 60s SF pulp novel, the Chinese have pushed the boundaries of commercialism and the need to consume with Yiwu International Trade City aka China Commodity City.
Based in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, and deemed by the UN and other official bodies as “the largest small commodity wholesale market” in the world, Trade City takes up a whopping 46 million sq ft of space. Dominated by over 70,000 shops and with 10 million separate products available, up to 150,000 people from all over the world flock here every single day.
…and don’t worry about getting lost: Commodity City is such a sprawling enterprise that corridors are marked as street names. It must be like trekking through a post-nuclear subterranean city.
It’s a haven for those operating across the commercial spectrum, with international businessmen talking trade and cutting deals animatedly, down to fake DVD hawkers pushing their goods within the many miles of gleaming, air-conditioned corridors. Every day is a bustling one for those ensconced in Commodity City; some shop owners and manufacturers even sleep and raise their children within the city’s wipe-clean artificial confines.
Split into five ‘districts’ which are then segmented further into different floors, there is something for everyone at Trade City. Stall after stall after stall of both tat and quality, four and five star hotels, more food than a Marlon Brando weekend binge, 4D cinemas as well as sustainable solar power and rain collection systems that keep Commodity City ticking over in all conditions.
Be you a tech-head, wholesaler, wide-eyed tourist or someone looking to flog your wares then this is the place for you.
Naturally, there are some drawbacks. A combination of counterfeit and just plain strange goods reign supreme in a lot of stalls, from fake versions of Monopoly and adult diapers to inflatable tools embossed with the Israeli flag (not sure how popular they would be at the moment though).
Its present-day opulence is in stark contrast to its meek beginnings. Opening in 1982 with 700 stalls, the local government allowed cement to be placed over a ditch to act as floor space. Since the opening of District One in 2002, up to the unveiling of District 5 in 2011, the concept has grown beyond all recognition.
Although no plans are currently in place to expand or add a sixth district, you would not bet against the Chinese commencing work once more, despite evidence of a slow-down in their economy, in yet another bid to showcase their nation’s wealth, productivity and influence on the world stage.
If this is all too much for you, then may we suggest you stick to Amazon?