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Goodby to “Dongpi”–tenants at the clothing wholesale market

June 2, 2015

Beijing “Dongpi”–Goodbye!

[Dongpi 动批, nickname for the Beijing zoo area clothing wholesale markets]

Xinhua net 2015- 05-15 reporter Zhang Shuqi

“There’s nothing we can do –we just have to shed one layer of skin.” Thinking back on the events of the last four months, Li Ming still had lingering anxieties.

Around the New Year period for about one month, Li Ming, who was a tenant with a stall in the Tianhaocheng clothing wholesale market, rushed around to around 20 retail and wholesale markets in Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, etc., both large and small.He had an inventory of stock valued at about 30,000 yuan, which he sold off at cheap prices. But his business was not finished. He still had to negotiate with the Tianhaocheng market the return of ten years of rent which he had advanced, and to talk to his landlord about when he could terminate the rental agreement where he lived.

In the Tianhaocheng clothing market, there are 1300 tenants in the same fix as Li Ming.

The clothing wholesale markets took form in the mid- 80s. There were 13,000 stalls, over 30,000 employees, and 100,000 customers daily. If Beijing city was going to relieve congestion, it was obvious that these markets in the city center would have to go. Last year Beijing demolished or shut down, upgraded or transformed, 217 markets. The emptied out area totalled 2,188,000 square meters.

If the move was irreversible, what would happen to all those people employed in the markets? For those who had already moved out, and for those who were hunkered down and staying where they were for the time being, what did the future hold?

Li Ming came from Shandong, He was one of the more successful players in Tianhaocheng market, with ten or more stalls. Business was good, every month he paid his employees more than 10,000 yuan. Now, because Tianhaocheng market would not renew his contract, he had to find a way out.

Not long ago, a group associated with a market in Xiqing district Tianjin city chartered a large bus, and invited the Beijing zoo area tenants to come investigate their market. When Li Ming got on the bus, he was surprised to find almost all the seats taken, and the majority were familiar faces.

They went to Tianjin. Since the market was not fully constructed, they stood around a scale model of it listening to the management introduce its features. A staff member spoke of Tianjin’s residential possibilities, tax policy, the aid available for school admittance for their children. But since the market was not yet built, the tenants decided to wait and see.


After returning from Tianjin, Li Ming and several of his fellow wholesalers went together to Langfang, Baogou, and other localities in Hebei, but were not very satisfied with any of them. “These markets in Tianjin and Hebei, I figure it will take them three years before they really get going,” said Li Ming.

After going over the possibilities many times, Li Ming decided to stake his fortune on Yongqing. “The new market going up there has favorable policies which are appealing. It is not well known yet, but I want to get in on it from the beginning.”

Nowadays Li Ming has already opened his store in the new market. Customers on the city periphery are scattered, but gradually accumulating. “It is a bit like Dongpi when it first started out.”

As the Tianbaocheng market closes, the phrase that lingers in one’s ears is, “I had to sell for a loss.”

41 year old Mr. Deng is an outstanding tenant at Tianbaocheng. Last year his business did so well, his name was posted on the honor roll in the Tianbaocheng main hall. However, since the news spread of the marker moving out, Mr Deng has continuously posted deficits. “Shoes worth over 100 yuan, sold at 40. Several hundred pairs of shoes, for a loss of over 20,000 yuan.” Even though things are like this, he continues to energetically call out to passersby. Selling these shoes for some amount is better than storing them away, which won’t earn him even a penny.

Originally Mr Deng’s wife also worked at their stall, but since business was off, his wife and child had to get temporary jobs elsewhere to supplement the family income. When he came to Beijing several decades ago, his family of three squeezed into a small one story house outside the fourth ring, with a rent of 500 yuan a month. He was living in an urban village not too far from the zoo area. Many of his neighbors were tenants at the same Tianbaocheng market.

Now, since Mr Deng was not able to sell off all his stock, even at reduced prices, he and his wife decided to temporarily continue rent a stall in a part of Dongpi in which the relocation plan has not yet been put into effect. However the location of the new stall is not good, and business is sluggish.

Although the Tianbaocheng signs have come down, there are other markets in the Beijing zoo area in which the managers have heard they are supposed to relocate, but they have not yet gotten any precise information.

In the Dongding wholesale clothing market, there are a number of larger stalls in which the yearly rent is as high as 300,000 to 1,000,000 yuan. Even so, in the seven floors of the building, there is not one vacant stall. The news of relocation is not effecting business in the slightest. Many of the tenants believe that relocation, in the short term, will be difficult to implement.

Dongding market

Dongding market

The 7 floors of Dongding market

The 7 floors of Dongding market

Dongding interior

Dongding interior

“Move? Two years after they said move, and nothing has happened, do you believe it or not?” Mr Zhang, who had managed a stall for more than ten years, was doubtful. “In Dongpi there are 10,000 tenants or more, and many of them have contracts that are for a good many more years, how is it possible that they will simply have to leave? And if tenants move, they definitely need to receive compensation and help in resettling, this will require a large fund of money and time, at least three to five years.”

Mr Zhang pointed out something else. Because of all the media stories about the markets having to relocate, the flow of people to the area has recently increased. Many are young people who buy a few things and take souvenir photos, “because they have heard the markets are disappearing, ha-ha!” Mr Zhang figures that, for the near future, he will be able to get a little extra income from these ‘Memories of Dongpi tours.’

However overall, traffic to the area is steadily declining. A Mrs Cui, who sells sticks of candied fruit (tanghulu) at the number 4 line subway thoroughfare, says she used to sell 150 sticks a day or more, but is now down to about 50.

Opposite the markets, there is a line of small restaurants selling breakfast crepes (jianbing), Sichuan style noodles, and braised skewered snacks (malatang). Although these places are small, there is a steady stream of customers, and at mealtimes there are long lines. These restaurants feed and support the workers and merchants going in and out of Dongpi. If the markets move, what will they do? On the other hand, it may be appropriate for some of this prosperity to be shifted out to the periphery.

But when asked, the managers of these small restaurants are not worried about the relocation of the markets. “Even if the wholesalers all vacate and these become office buildings instead, there will still be people inside who need to eat a meal.”

Mrs Cui has a small market, less than 3 square meters. She stocks water, crackers, instant noodles, and feminine products. “One months rent is 6000 yuan, and I have already paid till the end of the year. Peoples’ anxiety is going up. If the market really does relocate, my business will suffer.”

According to an informal count, there are 20 or more goods transporting business around the market area. Every day they transport or ship a million yuan worth of clothes to areas all over the country. 56 year old Mr Huang comes from Zhangjiakou (city in Hebei), and has been at Dongpi for 30 years. Every day he goes busily back and forth in the market, collecting goods from various stalls, and taking them to a shipping and delivery center. Mr Huang says there are 400 stalls he works for. For hauling a load of goods, he makes 10 yuan, each day he earns 300 yuan or more. When he has nothing to haul, he sits with some fellow workers, chatting, smoking, and reading the newspaper.

Aside from delivering goods, there are those who transport people as well. Parked outside the Dongpi markets are a number of black [unregistered, illegal] taxis. Every day the drivers call our for customers, to ferry people back and forth between Dongpi and Dahongmen [the other large clothing wholesale market].

It is reported that last year stalls in Dongpi dccreased by 1300, 10% of the total. This year it is predicted they will again decrease by 1300.

Altogether about 100,000 people work in Dongpi. It is like a huge, immense tree with many branches and leaves. In the near future, when this tree has to move out, will all those branches and leaves be able to grow and develop elsewhere?

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