Diversity . . . Of a Sort

By Matthew Yglesias

It’s hard to know what kind of random bits of anecdata can shed light on the overall situation in such a big country as China, but one telling incident is that when we arrived in Yiwu our hosts explained that the city is noteworthy for being home to about 10,000 foreigners. And indeed as I saw walking around earlier tonight they have what they call an “Exotic Street” full of foreign (mostly Muslim) businesses and a few other such places in the vicinity. But when you get right down to it, there are 1.2 million people in Yiwu so we’re talking about a foreign population of about one percent.

In the United States, of course, that would be the mark of an extremely immigrant-free city. But China is a sufficiently homogenous place that it counts as a marker of openness to foreigners. It goes to show that even though the US and China are similar in being rather gigantic, fairly inward-looking (some might say solipsistic) places, that we exist on very different points on this continuum.