David Barboza reports in the NYT:
DATANG, China - You probably have never heard of this factory town in coastal China, and there is no reason why you should have. But it fills your sock drawer.
Datang produces an astounding nine billion pairs of socks each year - more than one set for every person on the planet. People here fondly call it Socks City, and its annual socks festival attracts 100,000 buyers from around the world.
Southeast from here is Shenzhou, which is the world's necktie capital. To the west is Sweater City and Kid's Clothing City. To the south, in the low-rent district, is Underwear City.
This remarkable specialization, one city for each drawer in your bureau, reflects the economies of scale and intense concentration that have helped turn China into a garment behemoth. On Jan. 1, a new trade regime will end the decades-old system of country-by-country quotas that divide the world's exports among roughly 150 countries. Now, China is banking on its immense size and efficient operators to grab an even larger share of the world's clothing orders.
The garment industry has traditionally been the first rung up on the ladder of industrialization, from England in the 1760s onward. If China monopolizes the garment trade, however, that will foreclose the first step up for the poorest countries in the world. However, we'll be able to buy lots of cheap socks at Wal-Mart (at least until the Chinese tire of propping up the rapidly becoming less almighty dollar), and I guess that's what's really important.