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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2007, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Made in Italy?
By Rosie Goldsmith
Reporter, BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents

Chinese workers in Milan's Chinatown
Crossing Continents
Thursday, 2 August 2007
1102 BST on BBC Radio 4

Chinese immigrants - many illegal - are flooding into Italy to work in the northern textile industries, forcing a rethink of how to manage the country's fragile fashion and textile sector.

The city of Milan - Italy's fashion and business capital - and home to Italy's oldest Chinese community - recently saw violent clashes between Chinese clothing merchants and Italian residents and police.

The Chinese say they are discriminated against and that the Italians don't appreciate how hard they work. The Italians say the Chinese are taking over the city and taking their work.

In Prato - Italy's textile manufacturing centre - as much as 15% of the population is now Chinese, mostly recent migrants, and most are working in the city's factories or sweatshops.

Prato has become the centre of a clash between two cultures: the dynamic hard-working Chinese, pushing Italy reluctantly towards globalization, versus the Old World Italians, wedded to their traditional family businesses.

Italy's economy - of which the fashion and textile industry is a major player - is trying to pull out of a decade-long slump.

The cut-price clothing and low-pay and long hours labour practices of many of the Chinese - as well as the cheap imports from China itself - are seen as a direct threat to Italy.

For Crossing Continents Rosie Goldsmith visits Milan and Prato, the two cities with the most established Chinese communities in Italy, and the main battleground between two cultures and two global business leaders. Will "Made by China" win over "Made In Italy"?

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 1102 BST.

It was repeated on Monday, 6 August at 2030 BST.

Crossing Continents


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