Why is everything so cheap in China?
"Made in China": The hometown of cheap goods
Most of the products are made in factories directly in Yiwu, but the manufacturing spirit extends to the suburbs and the surrounding countryside as well. There people sew in their homes and sell the goods to a market, from where they are then resold to buyers from Korea, Japan, the USA or another country. It is estimated that around 1,000 shipping containers leave Yiwu for foreign ports every day.
For Petralla, it was surreal to be surrounded by so many cheap products. Things were being sold everywhere, on every floor, on the sidewalk, even on the streets. He passed stalls full of people all selling the same products that were made nearby. Water guns, footballs, jewelry, cuddly toys, hair ties, phone cases. Everything was available for a few cents.
As was the case with so many Chinese cities, Yiwu's economy was once based on agriculture and focused on areas such as chicken farming and sugar production. In the 1950s it began to transform itself into a production center for commercial goods. The city invested in infrastructure and factories. Peasants who might otherwise have moved were sent to work in the factories, producing goods that could be sold cheaply on the international market.
Yiwu has centered its economy on quantity for the 21st century, but in the past few decades the city has also invested more in quality. In 2005, a sock maker invested more than $ 100 million to create "the most advanced pair of socks," made from experimental materials that are more durable. The same development has been seen in zippers, which were once cheap, disposable, and after considerable investment, are now slimmer and more stable.
So much production and commerce leads to a culture of competitive thinking in which everyone tries to get a higher price than their neighbors.
What they all have in common, however, seems to be their pride in producing goods that are sold all over the world. "Everyone in Yiwu, from the poorest to the richest, across all social classes, seemed proud of their accomplishments," says Petralla. Belt, fish hook, gloves - the work of a single city, reproduced billions of times.
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