The withdrawal began last month when Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang – China’s second-highest official since President Xi Jinping – praised the city of Chengdu to create 100,000 jobs overnight by setting up tens of thousands of street stalls that typically sell food, fresh vegetables, clothing and toys.
Incentive for tech
The idea of suppliers flooding the streets of high-tech metropolises like Shanghai and Shenzhen has caused controversy in part in China, as Beijing has spent years cultivating the country’s image as a world advanced superpower. XI The signature policy project, “Made in China 2025,” has prompted the country to compete with the United States for influence through multibillion-dollar investments in future technologies.
“Street walking is something Xi doesn’t like because it tarnishes the image of a prosperous and beautiful China he loves to design,” said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the London School of Oriental and African Studies.
Xi himself has reiterated his long-standing commitment to technological solutions in China’s economic woes in recent weeks. He recently called on the country to invest in next-generation 5G networks and satellites as part of a plan to boost economic growth and employment.
A harsh political reality
In addition, he said, it may not be as effective as it used to be for Beijing to carry out large, expensive infrastructure projects as a way to solve its economic problems.
China is a response to the latest major economic shock – the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. It included large investments in roads, airports and high-speed rail lines. This time, that line of stimuli is already saturated.
The recent financial crisis has also left China with a large debt, which is why it is important for the country to focus on private consumption this time, Zhu added.
Tang Min, a Chinese government adviser, recently told reporters in Beijing that street hodges will not only create jobs, but will also address public concerns about indoor crowds due to the current pandemic.
“But it can’t replace a‘ regular ’economy – what can be sold or bought on the streets is very limited,” Tang said. “The government can’t allow it to grow steadily – it needs to be regulated as we continue to experiment and explore this possibility.”
During an annual political gathering in May, Li spoke about China’s problems and the extent to which some people may not be able to participate in the country’s high-tech future. About 600 million Chinese – about 40% of the population – earn only 1,000 yuan ($ 141) a month.
“Li is trying to resolve urgent issues … with a realistic approach.” said Willy Lam, an assistant professor at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Hong Kong. While access to a street vendor may not be perfect, he said, there may not be a better alternative to creating a lot of jobs in a short amount of time.
“Recruitment is an extremely important issue that could trigger a political turnaround … Lee is clearly worried about the catastrophic outcome of a huge job loss.”
Tsang, director of the China SOAS Institute, said Li is likely trying to do his job by overseeing the country’s key economic policies.
“The pandemic resulted in him being allowed to play more well-established prime ministerial roles in managing the economy, something he followed most of the time in the Xi era,” Tsang said. “He saw how the economic impact of Covid-19 would require a more pragmatic and emphatic approach, allowing, even encouragingly, street sales for those fired as a result of the pandemic.”
Local governments are moving forward
Public debate about Li’s order for street vendors in China has faded in recent days as capitals – including Beijing and Shenzhen – make it clear that politics is not welcome there.
“Street stalls will not completely disappear in reality,” said Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He expected local governments to continue the plan as long as unemployment remains a major concern.