Chinese Lingerie Merchants of Egypt

 Chen Yaying and Liu Jun, who go by the names Kiki and John, in their lingerie store in Asyut, with their Egyptian assistant Rahma Medhat.Credit Photograph by Rena Effendi / INSTITUTE

Chen Yaying and Liu Jun, who go by the names Kiki and John, in their lingerie store in Asyut, with their Egyptian assistant Rahma Medhat. Credit Photograph by Rena Effendi / INSTITUTE

I’m a huge fan of Peter Hessler’s writing. Author of River Town and Country Driving,  Hessler knows China and Chinese people like few others. Now based in Egypt, he  wrote an article in the New Yorker about Chinese businesspeople there who, oddly enough, have carved out a niche in the lingerie market.

His article explores how the pragmatism and fatalism of Chinese merchants—they’re there to make money, not to change anybody’s ideology—allows them to be flexible and adaptable in the face of political upheaval in the Middle East. It also delves a bit into China’s presence in Africa as a whole, something few Americans consider.

On a personal note, having lived in China during the repressive era when even to wear a skirt was considered a bit risqué, it’s amusing to consider a Chinese farmer-turned-lingerie-merchant nonchalantly selling thongs and transparent negilgées to Muslim women.

It’s a fun and informative reading for anyone with an interest in China and Chinese people. Link to the original article here:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/10/learning-to-speak-lingerie

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