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Last on

Fri 29 Jul 2011 11:00 BBC Radio 4 FM only

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 29 July 2011

Roger Law visits the Chinese city of Yi Wu, the world's largest market place for consumer goods. Its massive exhibition halls are temples to the gods of consumerism and globalisation. But it's not for the west. As Roger soon discovers, it is Arab traders who have been visiting Yi Wu since 9/11. Entrepreneurs from the Middle East found it virtually impossible to travel to America due to visa restrictions, so turned their attention to a much more welcoming China. Now mosques and Middle Eastern restaurants are sprinkled across Yi Wu as traders make themselves at home.

Forget selling DVDs to America and shoes to Europe, Yiwu is making a fortune selling to the developing world. Anything from plastic ducks to rubber rings are on sale in Yi Wu. Roger finds himself in a hall full of thousands of sock sellers and gets lost amongst wall-to-wall soft toys. Adrift in a sea of plastic, he tries to make sense of the new consumerism spreading across emerging countries around the world.

The route to Yi Wu is set to be the new silk road, connecting China to the Middle East and beyond, with trade routes onward from Dubai to Africa and South America. Roger Law is our erudite guide as he cuts his way through the jungle of consumer goods at the epicentre of global trade.


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