Can street vendors save China from a business crisis? Beijing seems divided

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.

The government must do more to create new jobs by “breaking stereotypes,” Lee said He said during the big annual political rally in Beijing. “China has 900 million manpower. Without jobs, 900 million mouths need to be fed. There are 900 million pairs of hands out of jobs that can create huge wealth.”
The suggestion that street vendors could be the answer to China’s unemployment problem was not limited to Lee’s remarks at the rally. “Mobile vendors” were also mentioned in his yearbook government work report – which records Beijing’s priorities for the year – for the first time since he took office seven years ago. Li continued to praise street vendors even after the gathering during a visit to the eastern province of Shandong.
Leo’s message arrives at a stressful time for the world the second largest economy, From January to March Chinese GDP decreased for the first time in decades. The unemployment rate has also worsened since coronavirus pandemic started, and unofficial analyzes suggest that there are as many of them as possible 80 million people he might be out of work this spring. Prior to the government outbreak, authorities said about 11 million new jobs needed to be created each year to keep employment on the threshold.
But the reaction to Li’s field in the Chinese state media has been swift and fierce. The influx of street vendors in larger cities would be “uncivilized,” state television CCTV wrote in commentary piece posted online earlier this month. He criticized the idea, without mentioning the prime minister, as a “return overnight decades ago.”
And the Beijing Daily, the city’s official newspaper, published several articles that street stalls broke in as noisy, obstructive, and capable of tarnishing “the image of the capital and the image of the nation.”

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.

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“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.

“Efforts should be made to promote innovation in science and technology and accelerate the development of emerging strategic industries,” Xi said last month during a meeting with political advisers. according to state television CGTN.
The smartphones are on display at the Huawei store ahead of this month’s opening in Shanghai.

A harsh political reality

But Xiaobo Lü, a political science professor at Ann Whitney Olin of Barnard College, said Lio’s idea has some merit. China has set a goal eliminating poverty by the end of this year, and Lü noted that street sales and other modest work by people living just above the poverty line can “find ways to survive”.

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.

“In many respects, even measured by population per capita, China has achieved leading global status” in infrastructure, wrote Zhu Ning, a professor of finance at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University and a professor at Yale University, in research report earlier this year. “Therefore, its need for infrastructure has changed greatly compared to 2008.”

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.

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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.

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That is why the work of street vendors is a “key source of employment”, Lee He said during his visit to Shandong province this month, adding that such deals make China as “alive” as high-class industry. A state media report hinted that lifting restrictions on street stalls – such as allowing road traffic in urban areas – could result in as many as 50 million new jobs being created.

“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.”

A Uyghur man sells traditional flat bread to women shoppers along Beijing’s Xinjiang Street in 1999.

Tsang, director of the China SOAS Institute, said Li is likely trying to do his job by overseeing the country’s key economic policies.

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“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.

But other local governments in less prosperous regions are quietly pushing the idea forward. Lanzhou, the capital of the northwestern province of Gansu, on Tuesday announced plans set up nearly 11,000 street stalls – a plan he hopes will create at least 300,000 jobs.
Changchun, the capital of the northeastern province of Jilin, also promoted the idea. The head of the provincial Communist Party visited street food stalls in Changchun earlier this month and praised the business as a “low barrier to entry” for people who simply want to find a job, Provincial Jilin.

“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.

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