The "Arab Village" in Zhejiang, China realizes the dreams of more people
By: Jenny Lyu / Arab America Contributing Writer
Trade between China and the Arab world emerged and flourished as early as the Tang Dynasty. In the Song Dynasty, ceramics, silk, paper, and other handicraft products were exported to Arab countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Today, Yiwu, a city in China, attracts many Arab merchants. They bring Yiwu commodities to the Middle East market. A new “Silk Road” is emerging.
It takes courage to step into an unfamiliar land, but the opportunity is also gigantic. A young and full of dreams Jordanian said: “China helped me realize my dream!” Many others like him, rooted and married in China, seized the opportunity and started a business. Either they were opening a restaurant or making international trade, sometimes even both.
Booming Export Business
Commodities cost too much in Europe, and business-savvy Middle Eastern and African merchants pay less for their supplies in China. Originally from Mauritania, Africa, Hassan has visited many cities in China’s factories. Known as the “capital of small commodities,” Yiwu is a good choice. Hassan runs his own trading business while pursuing graduate and doctoral studies in China. Here’s what he does: he leaves his contact information on websites in Arab countries. This way, people in business from Arab countries can find him online and contact him to express demands. After learning about their needs, Hassan inspects and contacts several factories in China beforehand. When the clients arrive, he picks them up at the airport, takes them to the selected factories, finalizes their orders, and then helps them send their goods back home.
Hassan also charges a 3-5% commission based on the transaction amount and if the client needs to use the warehouse (or $100 per day if no deal is concluded). 20,000 to 30,000 Arabs like Hassan travel back and forth between their own country and China. Every morning, in the commodity market, many packages of goods are ready to go and are sent to Middle East countries.
Like Eating at Home
Busy business does not stop people from enjoying life. Yiwu preserves the heritage of Arabs and shows internationalization. In the famous Exotic Street, you will find skewers that belong to your nation. If you want to eat Middle Eastern food, a trip to Yiwu is enough. After nightfall, merchants from all over the world crowd restaurants and terraces, colorful neon signs flash, and the food and wine taste almost identical to Arabs hometown food. If you think you can only eat Middle Eastern food here, you’re mistaken. Japanese food, Korean BBQ, etc., although not as many as Middle Eastern restaurants, and more scattered, the taste is authentic.
Food is always the link between the wanderer and his hometown. All countries or regions with long-term cooperation with Yiwu have their hotels or restaurants. People who travel to Yiwu for a short time use these restaurants to discuss business or exchange business information. If Yiwu is a microcosm of China’s international trade, Exotic Street is a microcosm of Yiwu. Foreign business people learn about Yiwu through the night market on Santing Road and integrated into life here.
Great cooks do not necessarily make great restaurants. The location, decoration, food quality, taste, service, etc., must be controlled and managed carefully. It is also necessary to keep communicating with customers, collecting feedback, and constantly improving. Domestic and overseas merchants like the restaurants here. Outside the restaurants, the endless stream of vehicles and pedestrians are busy with their livelihoods. In the restaurant, the authentic taste of food relieves them from the fatigue of the day and gives them a feeling of going home.
A Home Guarded by Every Foreigner
After the success of starting a business in Yiwu, many Arabs began to help foreign businessmen who just came to Yiwu with renting and recruiting. They regularly introduce them to Chinese national conditions, policies, laws, and regulations. Sometimes, the restaurant has also become a mediator of economic disputes and conflicts between businessmen of different nationalities. Everyone can always be calmer and more reasoned to solve problems at the dinner table. Everyone is like a family, working together for a win-win situation, and many things are easily solved.
In order to prevent troublesome and lengthy solutions such as passport loss and replacement, Yiwu has launched the “Business Friend Card” for people who are residents abroad. In the field of Yiwu administrative management, passports can be replaced, and overseas personnel who hold cards can enjoy the same treatment as Yiwu citizens in basic pension, medical care, children’s education, and other social security. Furthermore, the International Trade Service Center integrates 125 foreign-related matters from 12 departments, including public safety, commerce, taxation, and customs. They realizes the “one-stop” service for foreign-related issues through only “one door.”
“It doesn’t matter which country you are from; finding Yiwu municipal government departments to solve problems is very convenient.” Mohannaid deeply understands this: “Yiwu municipal government is not ”stingy,” and the government will help you if you encounter anything. Once in a while, the government invites the heads of chambers of commerce in various countries to hold meetings to ask about the troubles they have encountered recently. The issues we mentioned about children’s education and medical care have now been resolved.”
Not only in China but in every corner of the world, some people are full of dreams. They are far away from their hometowns and develop in different places to build their communities and improve their lives. It is a beautiful thing for us to achieve our careers and dreams, to work together for peaceful development, and to help people from all over the world realize their dreams. The pandemic will pass, and we will have more opportunities. I hope everyone can find their path and live a happy life.
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