Thursday, May 15, 2008

Photo Essay: Canton Fair

During the infamous case of The Tainted Chinese Toothpaste, my inbox flooded with e-mails from concerned friends and family. "Are we too late? Have you already dropped dead?" While I was pleased so many people were concerned about my dental hygiene regime, I felt a huge disconnect between their perceptions of China and mine. With so many products coming from China, that one shipment of tainted toothpaste seems quite tiny indeed.

Every imaginable trinket is made here. I mean absolutely everything. (Which makes my difficulties finding a simple hand held kitchen mixer all the more baffling. I know they make the damn things here, but apparently, no one else wants to buy one.) Printed paper party napkins (say that ten times fast!) hand painted wooden easter egg ornaments, marabou feather trimmed Mardi Gras hats, toilet brush stands, Nascar clocks, reproductions of Victorian apothecary jars, Dora the Explorer jewelery boxes, even the paper shopping bags from Neiman Marcus are all Made In China.

Every single day, each of these items is packed, stacked and folded alongside ten thousand identical brethren into giant metal cargo containers which stack neatly atop one another and later fit snugly onto the bed of a flatbed truck. Look around you next time you are on the highway. All those semi-trucks are stuffed with goods from China. Waves and waves and waves of things are departing from the shores of China every single second. It is absolutely staggering. And a huge number of orders for all these things are first placed at the Canton Fair.

Railroad employees inexplicably marching in formation. Though I'm not sure why they do this, it seems to be routine. The guards at our apartment compound do the same thing every morning.

Ever wonder where Michael and JoAnn get all their prefab wooden do-dahs? Wonder no more.

The other ten percent of Easter decor probably comes from Mexico.

Ditto for the Buddhas you see at Pier 1 and World Market.

Trade show attendees are a unique breed of tourist. (I especially like this American guy who was trying to get out of my shot, not realizing his dazed stare was key to the image.)

This fellow was also trying to get in on the trade show action; hawking animal hides to bewildered foreigners. I saw a dozen others selling fur with a luggage trolley exactly like this one. Imagine them meeting out in the countryside to plan their own mini trade show visit. "Hey guys, let's head down to Guangzhou for the Canton Fair. I bet we'll make a killing!"

I liked the absurdity of a guard being guarded by velvet ropes. He looked like he was a figure at Madame Tussuad's.

A good day for Ronald.

Swag; the lifeblood of the trade show attendee. It doesn't matter how cheap and/or useless it is, "I'll take it!"

More goods shipping out via train.

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