“As the U.S. opened the era of private spaceship economy (SpaceX program), China restarted its street vendor economy.” These are popular words on China’s Internet lately. Facing the economic pressure from COVID 19, China recently loosened up its control over street vendors. In March, the Chengdu City Management Committee issued new regulations to allow residents or local businesses to setup vendor booths on the street. By May 21, the city had 2,234 temporary street vendors which created over 100,000 jobs and enabled 98 percent of the restaurants to re-open their businesses. Since then, a number of cities and provinces, including Shanghai, Gansu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Hebei have followed their lead.
In 2005, China launched “civilized city” evaluation nationwide. In order to be recognized for their achievements while ensuring public stability, local municipal governments around China launched severe attacks on street vendors. There were numerous bloody incidents reported when urban administrators used violent force on street vendors. On May 27, 15 years later, the Office of the Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization issued a new guideline and stated that street vendors will not be part of the measures for the civilized city evaluation. Meanwhile a number of official media also published articles to praise the street vendor model.
There were heated discussions online about this policy change. Some people commented that Beijing is obviously concerned about social and political stability and economic recovery, so they have to give the public some leeway. Some people said, ”Now it’s time to encourage street vendors. Obviously, we are not doing that well financially.” In the recent government work report the State Council issued, “protect” and “stabilize” are two key words that were frequently mentioned. China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s recent statement during the press conference at the People’s Congress was also shocking. Li said that there are 600 million people in China who only have a monthly income of 1,000 yuan (US$140) and can hardly afford rent in a mid-sized city. A recent report showed that due to COVID 19, 80 percent of the small and medium-sized factories in the Pearl River Delta region that used to rely on orders from overseas are facing order cancellation and most of them are staying idle.
Epoch Times, May 31, 2020
Xinhua, June 1, 2020