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Chinese Throw Themselves into Getting Rich With AM-Capitalist China

September 19, 1992

Undated (AP) _ BAIGOU, China (AP) - ″Enrich the people,″ reads a billboard at the entry to this small town 75 miles southwest of Beijing.

In a country overdosed on political slogans, that is one everyone in town has taken to heart.

Baigou’s 4,700 families, most of whom still farm the land, have set up a huge free market that has become an important wholesale distribution point for consumer products, from toys to T-shirts to tennis rackets.

The market, which opened several years ago, has been praised as a national model since senior leader Deng Xiaoping declared in January that the country needs a market economy.

As a visitor approaches, Baigou seems like any other town in northern China: a narrow, dusty road, thirsty-looking fields, walled courtyard homes of yellow clay.

Cross a bridge onto the only paved street, however, and Baigou takes on the atmosphere of a Central Asian bazaar.

Twenty thousand vendor stalls form narrow alleys that loop and fork. Vendors peer from behind racks of wares, calling to passers-by.

They sell shoes, chopsticks, hair clips, computer games, decorative lights, nylon socks and plastic hangers. There are stalls with nothing but zippers or buttons or metal buckets. There are automatic fruit peelers and stuffed birds.

A lot of handbags and suitcases, made by the local families in home workshops, are for sale. The other goods are bought in bulk around the country and sold to peddlars from throughout the Beijing area.

″We call this place ’little Hong Kong,‴ a young cafe waitress said proudly.

No one lets a money-making opportunity pass by.

With tens of thousands of people arriving every day to do business, some residents have set up pay toilets.

Many have turned their homes into small hostels for traveling salesmen, who sit in shorts and T-shirts in the doorways of their rented rooms in the midday heat, fanning themselves. Oversize bags stuffed with goods are piled in the rooms behind them.

Many Baigou goods are showing up this summer on Beijing sidewalks. More and more Beijing residents, envious of the reputed riches of private traders, dabble in trade in their off-hours.

After dinner, thousands of people spread small squares of cloth on sidewalks and display cigarette lighters, hair pins or other trinkets - usually purchased wholesale in Baigou.

Some would-be enterpreneurs work on an even smaller scale.

A retired worker boils up a pot of fresh corn on the cob every afternoon and sells ears to passers-by. A young man offers stamps from his album, A man with a can of oil, a few tools and a rag performs on-the-spot bicycle tuneups.

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