Spring breeze blows into Guangzhou Garment Village
After the Spring Festival, 42-year-old Huang Zhaohua finally decided to spend 80,000 yuan to replace his factory with the latest sewing machine.
Huang Zhaohua believes that this is not an unprepared adventure. “I wanted to change last year because I was afraid that the market would not be good this year. But now I clearly feel that last year (customers) placed a total of 2,000 pieces of the same style of clothing. This year, The first order was 4,000 pieces. Even if you haven’t made money yet, change the equipment first and make money later.”
His factory is located on the 3rd floor of a factory building in Tangyong Village, Baiyun District, Guangzhou City. The factory building has 6 floors in total, and each floor is an independent small factory. The elevator in the building has been abandoned, and the walls are covered with mold and mildew. There are also small advertisements for “Cheap Toilet Cleaning”, “Factory Relocation and Warehousing” and “High Price Recycling of Inventory Clothes”. At 9 p.m., more than 40 sewing machines in his factory were still working. There are mineral water bottles hanging next to the machine to cool down the silk threads. The threads are running very fast and may burn the artificial leather being processed.
These urban villages are the soil for Guangzhou’s clothing market. There is a saying in the industry: 80% of China’s clothing comes from Guangdong, 80% of Guangdong’s clothing comes from Guangzhou, and 80% of Guangzhou’s clothing comes from Thirteenth Line. More than 60% of the products in Guangzhou’s large wholesale markets such as Shisanhang come from “small workshops” that are the same size as Huang Zhaohua’s factory, or even smaller.
Kangle Village, located near the South Campus of Sun Yat-sen University, is one of the larger “garment villages” with tens of thousands of small garment factories covering nearly 1 square kilometer of land. After the epidemic policy adjustment, a hotel owner near Kangyue Village found that there were many more foreign tourists at the beginning of this year, and 90% of them came to buy fabrics with color cards in their hands. A bus driver who travels between counties and cities in Hubei and Kangle Village found that last year the seats were often more than half empty, but at the beginning of this year they were 70% full.
In February 2023, the Guangzhou Municipal Government issued 38 measures to support the high-quality development of market entities, reducing the burden on small and micro enterprises through tax exemptions, tax reductions and financial support. .
But for the factory owners in Kangyue Village, rising rents and difficulty in recruiting workers are more practical difficulties than taxes. Compared with stall owners and cloth shop owners, they are often the last to feel the changes in the market. Their profits are extremely thin and are squeezed by upstream material prices, rents and labor costs. The “delivery first, pay later” transaction method allows them to encounter dishonest customers every year, and the goods are shipped but the accounts cannot be settled.
For more than 20 years, they have experienced the decline in foreign trade orders after the global financial crisis in 2008, the dilemma of demolishing urban villages and moving factories around, and experienced e-commerceThe acceleration of production brought about by the rise, and the stagnation of production during the epidemic. Every time we experience a storm, someone is photographed falling into the water. Some people “maxed out” four credit cards because they blindly followed the trend and opened an online store; some people drove a bus for several years in order to pay off their debts. But most of them still come back to open factories. “You have a chance if you survive,” one boss said.
”Like an inconspicuous sanitation worker in a university”
In Hong Le Village, electric vehicles are the most practical means of transportation. The cart basket can be used to place the cardboard for recruiting workers, and the pedals and back seat can be used to transport fabrics. The most important thing is that when there is a traffic jam, electric vehicles can easily squeeze forward. Since February this year, until 11 p.m., the narrow roads in the village have been crowded with electric vehicles and tricycles transporting fabrics. Many factory owners in the village often suffer from tinnitus. They have long been accustomed to the daily routine of cars honking outside their windows and machines roaring outside their windows.
A truck driver believes that this has not yet reached its most exciting time. He recalled the grand scene before the epidemic, “The cloth market outside was full of cars, even electric cars couldn’t move. There were huge crowds of people shopping and delivering goods. If you were a novice, you couldn’t squeeze in. This is the ‘Zhongda (market)’ )'”. At that time, due to the large amount of cargo, many truck drivers took the risk and installed “flying roofs” (also known as “open roofs”) on the carriages. This refers to the removal of the roof of the truck or the installation of brackets in order to load additional cargo. “Like ants moving,” he pointed at the “workers” carrying the cloth.
In less than half an hour, these fabrics can be delivered to the factory in Kangyue Village from the Zhongda Cloth Market. In the afternoon, the stall owner finished his work at the stall and went to purchase fabrics and then shipped them to the factory. Leisure Village only becomes lively in the afternoon.
There are many “handshake buildings” in the village, and the sunlight cannot leak in. When the neon signs are turned on at night, they are brighter than during the day. The labels say “printing”, “pressing”, “beading”, “zippers”, “buttons” and “rubber bands”. Every accessory required for making ready-made garments has its own face here. The owners of these small shops usually sleep during the day and wait for the factory to make the finished clothes at night before doing the final processing.
Huang Zhaohua is very familiar with this place. When he came to Guangzhou from Xiaogan, Hubei Province 20 years ago, his first stop was in Kangle Village, where he stayed up all night using a squeaking old-fashioned sewing machine. During the most difficult period, he slept under the cutting board and relied on the residual heat from the machine to keep warm.
The environment here is no different from 20 years ago. There is no dividing line between streets and private residences, and the privacy of a family hangs over the heads of passers-by. Passers-by can sometimes pick up fallen objects.women’s pants, new industrial clusters are forming in many places in Hubei.
“For the new generation of migrants who are at an absolute disadvantage in financial capital, human capital and social capital, Guangzhou’s high housing prices and living costs have become a big mountain in front of them. Compared with more than 10 years ago, Guangzhou’s House prices have increased several times. Therefore, buying a house locally is an unrealistic dream for them. If they choose to return to their hometown to start a business, or start a business in a city near their hometown, they will have accumulated a lot of money by working in the garment industry in a megacity. Capital, connections and management experience can not only achieve personal prosperity, but also drive the development of the local economy.” said Liu Ye, a professor at the School of Geographic Sciences and Planning at Sun Yat-sen University.
In 2010, Liu Ye and others conducted research on Dongfeng Village, another urban village in Guangzhou where Hubei people live together. They found that the demand for domestic low-end fashion surged in the 1990s. Hubei garment factories had strong flexibility and imitative capabilities and had many orders, which led to a lot of surplus labor in Hubei’s rural areas. But in the past 10 years, the Pearl River Delta region’s labor advantage has gradually been lost. “Garment factories in urban villages are still so prosperous because they are an informal economic form that can save a lot of costs.”
Liu Ye believes that using urban renewal to promote the conversion of old and new industrial drivers is in line with the law of high-quality urban development. “At this stage, the land rent in the central urban area of Guangzhou is already very high, and it is no longer suitable for the development of low-end labor-intensive industries. The rent-paying ability of each industry is different, such as the industries that Guangzhou has focused on developing in recent years, such as The new generation of communication technology, biopharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence, etc. are not only located at the commanding heights of the industrial value chain and have a strong driving effect on upstream and downstream industries, but also the related companies have strong profitability and high employee salary levels, which can support the high cost of central urban areas. of rent.”
Ten years ago, Liu Yu knew that Kangle Village would one day be demolished. Whenever the siren of a fire truck sounds in the village, or the iron roof is blown off during a typhoon, Liu Yu feels that the environment here is “too backward.” He can accept demolition, “I have been doing this for so many years. If I buy a car and it is about to be scrapped, I can definitely accept it.”
But Liu Yu didn’t want to leave Guangzhou. During the epidemic, several relocation and transfer advertisements were printed out but not posted. “Guangzhou’s location is very good, and there is a lot of living space. Anyone can be a boss, and the person who sells rags is also a boss. Anyone from high, middle or low can survive. As long as we are hardworking and down-to-earth, we cannot be eliminated for the time being. We will be demolished here , it can be built again there. If the wall on the east side falls, there will still be a wall on the west side.”
Now, he goes to the Panyu District on the outskirts of the city every month to inspect and select new factories after demolition. “There is always a place left for me.”
(Li Yong and Liu Yu are pseudonyms in the article)
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