Beginning in 1978, after the Chinese economic reform or “Opening of China,” tens of thousands of people from Zhejiang came to Europe, driven by complementary trade. Many started their careers as laborers in Prato, Italy and Madrid, Spain. Tensions between the new Chinese communities and local residents constantly escalated, as these ethnic groups brought more living and communal functions to areas that had previously been for industrial use only.
Today, Prato has one of the highest proportions of Chinese immigrants in Europe. Because of the lack of living facilities, large factories have often been divided into multiple single-family workshops. The transformations provided housing for Chinese immigrants, including those who worked illegally, but also created an increased risk for disaster. In 2013, seven workers died after a fire broke out in a Chinese-owned garment factory . The Cobo Calleja warehouse area in Madrid, another European city with a significant Chinese community, has a similar problem. After a large number of Chinese businessmen arrived in the late 1990s, the single-function warehouse buildings were transformed into shopping malls, restaurants, and clubs. But the influx of money from the interracial community has turned Cobo Calleja into a high-crime area.