In 1982, China was just beginning to open up to capitalism when the government decided to use a plot of land in a rural town of Yiwu to use as an open-air market. What started off as a rural, poor city has turned into a vibrant Trade Mart which now covers 988 acres. To put this into perspective, you could fit 10 Mall of America’s in the same space.
This Trade Mart opened up in 2002 and since then, has expanded 3 times. It is a place where traders place wholesale orders after viewing the 62,000 stalls selling more than 410,000 possible products. Products include everything from tweezers to power strips. The city has seen an increase of 34% in exports from 2009.
This growth comes largely from the developing world, which accounts for more than half of the city’s $2.86 billion in exports in 2010. The majority of business comes from these developing nations because the quality standards of these nations are less strict in comparison to the United States and European markets.
Middle Eastern traders have played a large part in the success of this new trade market because it allows people who once couldn’t afford such products, the ability to buy them. Coming from one entrepreneur, “Iraqis just want cheap, not quality, and I need to make a profit,” he says. Yiwu’s megamall offers this. Even with all of the Trade Mart's benefits, the mall still has its downfalls. In April of 2011, the United States Trade Office labeled Yiwu City as a “notorious market for copyright infringement (pg. 21)”.
The original Silk Road provided goods of all kinds between pilgrims, merchants, soldiers and missionaries in early Middle Eastern and Asian continents. The New Silk Road puts a modern spin on wholesale markets. Policy makers are realizing that large sums of export dollars don’t just come from multi-billion dollar deals on airliners but instead on a market with low cost goods available to the masses.