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Why it’s already Diwali in China

With the world economy still sinking, India and its neighbour find solace in each other. Diwali and Christmas have just begun inside the world’s largest global market in a China town called Yiwu near Shanghai, writes Reshma Patil.

world Updated: May 24, 2009 00:32 IST
Reshma Patil

With the world economy still sinking, India and its neighbour find solace in each other

Diwali and Christmas have just begun inside the world’s largest global market in a China town called Yiwu near Shanghai.

If you walk eight hours a day and spend three minutes in each booth, you will cover the entire market — in one year.

This year, with the US, Japanese and European economies contracting and many Asian economies flat, miles of corridors lined with over 1.7 crore made-in-China products are eerily empty.

But the Indians and Chinese — both economies are still growing — are preparing for the deadline of June and July to ship containers packed with thousands of Diwali lights, rayon scrolls of Hanuman or Saraswati and lightweight idols of every Indian god and goddess from Yiwu’s warehouses to the nearby ports of Shanghai and Ningbo.

The final destination: your home.

For China, the coming Diwali is more important than Christmas, as Chinese traders need growing markets in India, the Middle East and South America to ride the recession.

By April, Chinese exports had dived for the sixth straight month. But India-China trade grew 34 per cent last year to touch 51.8 billion dollars (Rs 2.445 trillion).

During a day in the market, HT noticed less than a dozen Indians haggling in broken Mandarin. But Indian exporters told HT they had survived the lowest dip in business from last June to March this year. “Three-four years ago, Chinese traders would say they were interested in the US market. I told them they would finally turn to India,’’ Mumbai native and Yiwu-based exporter Mehul Ashra told HT.

Traders like him will soon send cartons of Christmas trees from Yiwu to metros like Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Some Chinese suppliers with Indian clients told HT orders for several products have fallen by as much as 40 per cent.

But in a clear sign of India’s rising importance inside China’s top export hub, Yiwu’s Indian restaurants have grown from one in 2003 to seven. Yiwu has less than 100 Indian families.

Unlike Beijing, Yiwu restaurants serve the Mumbai trader’s staple snack: vada pav.