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China's bustling wholesale hub slips into holiday lull

01-31-2011 09:51 BJT

YIWU, Zhejiang, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The world's largest wholesale market for small products in east China's Yiwu city is slipping into a holiday lull as traders go home for the Lunar New Year after a year of good business.

The noise of bargaining that characterizes the 4-million-square-meter Yiwu International Trade Mart was gone. Small groups clustered in front of the stalls that sell New Year decorations over the weekend.

"About 80 percent of the 62,000 resident businesses in the trade mart have closed for the holiday," said Chen Jianfei, an administration official.

He said the number of visitors had shrunk from 200,000 to about 2,000 a day.

Yiwu, a relatively small city in Zhejiang Province, is at the forefront of the country's export economy. About 1.4 million migrants, including 20,000 foreigners, have come to live in the city of 700,000 local residents.

According to the municipal trade department, Yiwu's exports grew 34 percent last year to 2.86 billion U.S. dollars. The United States remained the top buyer, accounting for 17 percent of the total, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Germany.

Suitcases, zippers, cosmetics, tableware and underwear were the top export commodities last year, but exports of tee-shirts and carpets fell.

China's foreign trade rebounded to 2.97 trillion U.S. dollars last year, up 34.7 percent year on year, according to the General Administration of Customs. But analysts say the figure is set to drop this year as the global economic recovery loses momentum and China continues structural reforms to diminish the economy's over reliance on exports.

But for now, most business people want a good rest with the Chinese New Year only four days away.

"We have been working under pressure for the whole year. It is time for some rest and fun," said Chen Meijuan, a toy vendor. "It's no longer work, work, work. Chinese business people have changed."

Also gone are the army of migrants in the service sector in Yiwu.

Local residents complain it is hard to get a haircut during the holiday.

"Yiwu might be the most boring city in China to spend the New Year. It is cold and there's no entertainment," said a Bolivian trader who has been living in Yiwu for four years.

The man, who only gave his name as Henry, said he and his wife would go to the tropical resort city of Sanya, Hainan Province, for the holiday.

Jordanian trader Musbahal Muhtaseb, 23, said business in the past year was good and he planned to return to Jordan with his Chinese wife and 3-month-old baby for the holiday.

He said he was too poor to return last Spring Festival as the economic downturn left many of his clients unable to pay for goods.

"This year, I am looking forward to going back," he said. "And I am confident I will see Yiwu exports on the streets in Jordan."

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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