On a hot afternoon in May, with temperatures nearing thirty degrees in Yiwu, Mike sat in a Colombian coffee shop, sipping ice water and busily answering phone calls and messages. “My old client is coming to Yiwu tomorrow afternoon,” said the 30-year-old Lebanese foreign trader, scratching the sweat on his arm. He smiled and told the Southern Weekend reporter that it had been a long time since he had seen someone from the same country.
In 2014, Mike and a close friend started a foreign trade business in Guangzhou, primarily exporting Chinese small commodities to Africa and Europe. They frequently came to Yiwu for procurement. Mike valued the convenience of foreign trade purchasing and bulk consolidation in Yiwu. In 2019, he opened a branch in Yiwu. He had two mobile phones, each with over two thousand WeChat contacts. He used English notes to label his friends’ cities, occupations, and order numbers to quickly identify their identities.
During the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike spent half of his time trapped in Lebanon. This foreign customer was the first one he received after the lifting of restrictions. “This is a big client who previously placed orders for 18 containers with me,” Mike said excitedly. Sweat beads formed on his forehead as he eagerly anticipated a rapid recovery in foreign trade business in 2023.
Foreign trade is one of the “three pillars” of China’s economic development, and Yiwu has always been a barometer of China’s foreign trade trends. In the first quarter of 2023, both the “Yiwu Small Commodity City Index” and the total value of imports and exports recorded by Yiwu Customs indicated a recovery in Yiwu’s foreign trade.
However, the Southern Weekend reporter, after communicating with several foreign traders and business owners in Yiwu, also discovered that due to the uncertainty of factory production cycles, international logistics, and overseas market demand, the development of the “World Supermarket” still faces uncertainties.