This post is about a few different market cities in China. I am going to drop a few hints that might be helpful for a couple of different product types. I figure it might send some of you out there to a location that is more suited to buying small commodities for low prices rather than trading English lessons in return for goat skins or bowls of rice gruel and smelly tofu.
China is the world’s factory, they make nearly everything here. Anyone that cannot admit to that is either living in a dream or herding goats on a mountain top in the day and sleeping in a hut with an animal chip fire to light the evening and keep away the mosquitoes.
There are essentially 2 main manufacturing areas in China that seem to draw most foreigner traders dealing with small commodities ie. clothing, shoes, accessories, jewellery, electronics, household goods, furniture and so on (basically the small stuff that is high volume and low cost).These areas are the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province and Zheijiang Province near Shanghai.
Traditionally Guangdong has for hundreds of years been the gateway into China for international trade. The markets and factories of Guangzhou, DongGuan, Shenzhen, and other surrounding small cities account for a very large percentage of the total China production of small commodities. Guangzhou is the centre of this monstrosity of manufacturing being the capital city of the province. It is China’s 3rd biggest city on the books (4th if you know about a place called Chongqing) and possibly bigger or almost the same size as Shanghai if anyone was able to count the migrant workers that exist off the books. It is a city that exists in my opinion purely to make money from international trade and factory production. Some people might disagree but Guangzhou makes Shanghai and Beijing look like they are standing still. The city is colourful, the business is fast and the place smells bad with pollution that may well kill the average asthmatic as they step off the plane. If you want to find a manufacturer for any item or a wholesale supply from a trading company then this the city where you can find nearly any item. Guangzhou has more wholesale markets than any other place in China (possibly in the whole world).
Shenzhen which is just across the border from HongKong into mainland China is another market city which is well known to electronics traders as the best places to buy consumer electronics. It is well regarded as an important high technology production area and many of your most famous brands have production here. Due to its proximity to HongKong it is also a popular shopping destination for HongKong residents who make the quick trip across the border by train and then head back with bags full of counterfeit goods and cheap mainland products. It is a quieter, cleaner and more civilised city than Guangzhou but I would not recommend it unless I was wanting to do a quick shopping trip or purchase wholesale electronics and accessories. If you are a buyer of high tech gadgets or if you are looking for a skilled manufacturing base for a difficult product then this may be a city for you. There are numerous markets and factories here producing products on a huge scale from televisions, mobile phone, computers and other accessories for electronics through to mass scale production of some of biggest and most advanced solar development products in the world. Of course there are factories here that produce building materials, clothing, shoes and other small commodities but generally it is a place to buy electronics and high-tech products.
Donguan is one of the copy capitals of China they are famous for clothing production, shoes, paper products, packaging and a string other small commodities. It is a wealthy city and on of the primary centres of production in the Pearl River Delta. There are many factories here that produce a huge variety of products and prices tend to be very good if you are looking to purchase direct from factories in huge quantities. This city has wholesale markets also but has a greater focus on direct manufacture. If copy bags, shoes and clothing are your thing it is a great place to find them. As a major city in Guangdong Province and a key manufacturing area it is also a lively city, a little cleaner and more civilised than Guangzhou but still an important production centre.
Further north, just south and inland of Shanghai we have Zheijiang Province. In recent years it has become a key manufacturing area competing with Guangdong for a huge share of Chinese production. The most well known city in this area for small commodities is Yiwu which is small city that caters to foreign traders wanting to source small commodities. Yiwu has attracted interest from foreign traders due to low prices and centralised markets. The city is easy to navigate and is just a small town by Chinese standards. I often purchase from this area when price is the only issue. Yiwu itself services a multitude of factories in the surrounding cities and towns with representative officesand trading companies selling product from these factories. When price is the only concern Zheijiang is a very good option for anyone who needs to find small commodities. But always remember in China you get what you pay for. If you push a supplier on price they will usually use cheaper materials to make the production profitable for them.
The capital of Zheijiang Province is Hangzhou. It is a modern beautiful city that is also a major production area. It is famous for its silk production and has traded this product for centuries. It is also a major manufacturing base due to its proximity to Ningbo Harbour. The shipping rates out of Zheijiang are usually much lower than any other place due to the fact they can use Ningbo which is one of the few deep water ports in China. This obviously has an effect on the cost of raw materials coming in and out as the Port of Ningbo can service vessels able to carry much bigger loads.
The average salary in Zheijiang is much lower than in Guangzhou, the land is cheaper and the factory rents are much lower. This is why production is slowly moving away from the traditional production centres and back to the poorer provinces and small cities. Places like the Pearl River Delta are slowly losing their position at the top of Chinese production in part due to their success and rising cost of prodcution and living.. The things that stands in their favour are production and technical experience, infrastructure, proximity to HongKong and the accessibility of the markets to foreigners. The sheers numbers of markets and factories and diversity of products is like nowhere else in China.