Wenzhou, the cradle of Chinese capitalism, produced one billion shoes last year, 40 per cent of the world's total. There's a one in three chance your sunglasses were made in this manufacturing city. And that padlock on your bicycle most likely hailed from here, perhaps even the bike itself. And that's not to mention nearly all the cigarette lighters in the world.
Ye Jianqi, general manager of the Wenzhou Zhenqing Optical Company, is walking through the workrooms of her factory, where 10 million pairs of sunglasses were made in 2007, pointing out how much time the company has spent coming up with new designs. But despite these fresh inventions, this year the company will make only two million pairs.
"This year because of the global financial crisis, we've gone from 200 orders last year to 18 orders. The export market has collapsed," she said, passing boxes of frames and lenses lying beside the assembly lines. "We used to have 300 employees, now we have just over 100. And compared to the other optical companies around here, that's better than average."
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