Shopping on Silk Street with Bush Sr. And Other VIPs

Beijing's Silk Street Market is one of the capital's most beloved tourist destinations, but it's not for its silk. It's for the knock-offs--the LV purses, Dolce & Gabbana dresses, Tommy Bahama shirts, Ugg boots.

A few weeks before the Olympics began, Chinese police swept through the streets and said that this time they were serious about intellectual property violations. Shops filled with pirated DVD were shut down and vendors were forced to remove fake items with big name labels from shelves. Places like the Silk Street market, which was already suffering from a slowdown in tourists because of new visa restrictions, seemed doomed.

In a turn of events that is making shoppers gleeful but is likely infuriating the companies that make these items, there was little evidence of that cleanup effort on Thursday. In fact, it looked like there was even more fake stuff than ever before.

China is so proud of the market that it has assigned a reporter from the state-run CCTV news station to "Silk Street Watch."

Each day this week, the evening news has reported that another new political figure or celebrity has been shopping there.

Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush on Monday came to buy six silk nightgowns. State media reported that "Bush bought six gowns for 1,800 yuan (250 U.S. dollars). One was dark blue with an embroidered dragon on the back." Zimbabwe's First Lady Madame Grace Mugabe left with pearls, clothes and silk. New Zealand's Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright bought pearls and T-shirts.

"The Silk Street Market continues to "exert its magnetism" on tourists from everywhere, the CCTV anchor declared.

--Ariana Eunjung Cha

August 14, 2008; 9:20 AM ET  | Category:  Postmark Beijing
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