Italians Wary Of Chinese On Their Turf The Italian town of Prato is home to the largest concentration of Chinese residents in Europe. In this textile center, the Chinese have created a parallel, off-the-books economy — hiring illegal workers and selling items at low prices. As their wealth has grown, Italian resentment has spread.
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'Fast Fashion': Italians Wary Of Chinese On Their Turf

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'Fast Fashion': Italians Wary Of Chinese On Their Turf

'Fast Fashion': Italians Wary Of Chinese On Their Turf

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Next, as part of our series on the rise of China, we have two tales of Chinese living abroad in very different settings. We'll head to Lagos, Nigeria.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

First, though, we're going to Italy to the town of Prato. It's been a center for top-quality textiles for more than 1,000 years.

MONTAGNE: Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Unidentified People: (Foreign language spoken)

POGGIOLI: Chinese buyers come here for threads, buttons and zippers and sewing machines. The Chinese owner gives his name only in Italian.

GIUSEPPE: Giuseppe.

POGGIOLI: All business here is done in cash, no receipts. Nearby, an Arab man is hurriedly stuffing clothes into his rental car.

POGGIOLI: Unidentified Man: Five times a year.

POGGIOLI: Unidentified Man: In Syria, Damascus.

POGGIOLI: Twenty-six-year-old Alex King says Prato is ideally located in the center of Europe. This business, he says, needs no advertising. It flourishes thanks to an international grapevine.

ALEX KING: No. They used to buy in China, but they get easier to buy from here because, first, it's near, and second, they get the color they want. Because in China, they have to get a lot of quantity to make trucks, correct? So here they take what they like, and ready, ready stuff. They don't have to order.

POGGIOLI: But while the Chinese flourished, Prato textile companies dropped from seven to four thousand in just one decade. As Chinese wealth grew, Italian resentment spread.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVENTION CHATTER)

POGGIOLI: At a convention of Prato business leaders is held at a local hotel. Guests include the deputy Chinese consul, Yang Han. He is critical of police raids on Chinese workshops. He calls for a more gradual approach to allow Chinese businessmen to learn Italian laws.

YANG HAN: (Through translator) The Chinese government very closely follows its immigrants abroad, who are an important part of our homeland. They're hard workers with good intentions. They go abroad to get good work, to earn well, and to better enjoy life.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News.

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