Yiwu is a small city by Chinese standards. It has fewer than a million people and lies in the shadow of its wealthy neighbors, Shanghai and Wenzhou. But Yiwu is special. It claims the world’s largest wholesale market for consumer goods and is a Mecca for foreign traders. I had heard about the market from a Syrian trader, having asked him if there were many Arab traders in the city. He laughed and replied, “Not many Arab traders. All Arab traders are in Yiwu.” Intrigued, I decided to find out for myself. It was winter when I arrived and the city was gripped by a chill wind. I hustled out of the small airport into the warmth of a taxi. We sped along a newly built freeway to the city’s outskirts. From the outside, the exhibition hall looks like a large American mall. But, from the inside, it looks like a riotous collision of every retail shop, city market, and roadside stall in the world.
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