China's immense marketplace of colorful crap


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This is the bit that actually makes me angry: we aren’t wrecking the place by being flooded by well made and beautiful products - no no we are are swapping our once rather lovely planet for a bunch of junk that breaks in 5 minutes and no-one really wants anyway … ( yeah I know, typed on a plastic keyboard… )

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An unwanted and broken keyboard? If these toys were unwanted the Invisible Hand would take care of them. Junk to you might be treasure to the kid next door.

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I love this style of market - rather than having a single department store filled with chain stores, you’d often have a big building filled with small stalls like this, generally with some theme to them. If I wanted to buy electronics, there was a street with large buildings for that. The ground floor had stalls run by the standard international companies: Samsung, Toshiba, Apple etc. Further up you’d have stalls like these ones filled with cheap peripherals where you could bargain with the vendors. They weren’t in plastic shells, but they seemed to work about as well as the stuff in the west for a lot cheaper. Behind the buildings there were apartment blocks where people would fix your devices (for a price that actually made it worthwhile).Unlike in the west, if you brought a broken device back they would actually fix it for you or replace it for free (and even provide illegal access to Google Play). Everyone in the main stalls would know someone in the unofficial areas, so you could just walk up to a vendor with a question and follow them to a place where they’d have the answer. On the top floor you could buy quadcopters and other remote control devices, along with games, DVDs, modelling equipment and other stuff.

Under the main high street they had “fashion street”, which was a system of tunnels lined on both sides with tiny stalls full of clothes. The tunnels were connected to a hub in the centre where you could buy Chinese food, get a tattoo, get your nails done, buy knick knacks and so on. In the winter when it was below -20 C outside, you could walk from one area of the city centre to the other without having to go outside.

If you wanted to buy dry goods, there was a four storey building near our home. The whole place smelled intensely of the open sacks of spices taking up the first couple of floors - it was a great place to source spices for hotpot or other dishes. I’d also go to Tool Town, where you could buy all kinds of hardware. People would generally be willing to help you out if you needed something in particular, like gaskets for a coffee maker or a customised tool.

A fifth place nearby was more like Commodity City: at the time it was the largest wholesale market in the region, and the clothing section had 17,000 square metres of floor space. That was in 2010; it’s a lot bigger now. There’s a large multi-storey building dedicated to Christmas - you have no idea. Chinese plastic goods being Chinese plastic goods, it wasn’t somewhere I visited often or without a specific item in mind, but it was definitely an experience. The other places were usually more interesting, as you could get stuff fixed or customised, or ask for advice about a project.


“Nobody wants a Charlie in the box!”


China? Kinda just looks like the Pacific Ocean to me…

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I probably should be consumed with fury at the waste and pointless consumption, but the pictures are actually quite beautiful.

Just give it a few months…

get one that lasts. My current keyboard will outlive this machine for sure. Probably the next one too.

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