Foreign ‘inspectors’ hit the streets in booming Chinese market city Yiwu

Three expats patrolling Futian district to help with communication and traffic problems

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2017, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2017, 3:28pm

Yiwu – home to what’s become known as the world’s biggest wholesale market – has hired three foreign “street inspectors” to help make life easier for the many visitors and expats in the eastern Chinese city.

The three men, from Colombia and Azerbaijan, hit the streets of the city’s Futian district last month with the aim of helping foreigners with communication and traffic problems, Thepaper.cn reported on Tuesday.

One of them, Hugo Sazon, has been running a restaurant in the city, south of Shanghai, since 2013. The Colombian told the news website he was happy to take on the new role and had been patrolling busy Changchun Street, assisting visitors with car parking and making sure the area around the nearby market was clear for traffic. “There are so many people in Colombia cannot afford to buy food and support their families … I love China and I do not want to go back,” Sazon said.

Police officer Shen Junzhong, who is in charge of Futian district, said growing interest in the city from international traders led to the idea for the inspectors to assist with communication between locals and foreigners.

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Many visitors make a beeline for Yiwu International Trade City, a huge wholesale market where thousands of vendors sell cheap, mass-produced goods – including Christmas decorations – to customers from around the world.

Another expat, Babayev Asif, is in charge of Labour North Road. He moved to China from Azerbaijan in 2010 and set up a trading business. His wife and daughter joined him three months later.

“My first kid is now being educated in China,” Asif said. “My other two kids were both born here in China. I hope they can become Chinese citizens.”

For Asif, the cost and quality of products along with safety were drawcards. “Products here are good and cheap. And it’s very safe to do business … I have been to nearly 30 countries and China is the first country to make me feel this safe,” he said.

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The third inspector, a Colombian surnamed Fabio, said he was glad to help out on the streets of Yiwu and that his son, who is studying at Zhejiang University, supported his decision. Fabio covers Chengxin Avenue.

The city’s expat community numbers around 15,000 – mostly businesspeople from more than 100 countries – and it’s growing, The Guardian reported in March.

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Signs in English and Arabic are common, a weekly English-language newspaper is put out by the government, the first international school recently opened, and the authorities are considering teaching Arabic in public schools because of the number of traders in the city from the Middle East and North Africa, the report said.