Last month began to gain traction when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the second highest ranking official in China after President Xi Jinping, praised Chengdu City to create 100,000 overnight jobs by creating tens of thousands of street stalls, which typically sell food, fresh vegetables, clothes and toys.
The push for technology
The idea of vendors flooding the streets of high-tech metropolises like Shanghai and Shenzhen caused controversy in China in part because Beijing has spent years cultivating the country’s image as an advanced global superpower. Xi’s The signature policy project, “Made in China 2025,” has pushed the country to compete with the United States to influence through the investment of billions of dollars in the technologies of the future.
“Chopping on the street is something Xi doesn’t like, as it tarnishes the image of success and the beautiful China he likes to project,” said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the School’s SOAS China Institute. of Oriental and African Studies from the University of London.
In recent weeks, Xi himself has reiterated his long-standing commitment to high-tech solutions to China’s economic problems. He recently called for the country to invest in next-generation 5G and satellite networks as part of a plan to boost growth and jobs.
A harsh political reality
Also, he said, it might not be as effective as once Beijing carried out large and costly infrastructure projects as a way to solve its economic problems.
China’s response to its latest major economic shock, the global financial crisis 2008-2009, involved a major investment in roads, airports and high-speed rail lines. This time, this stimulus line is already saturated.
The latest financial crisis also left China heavily in debt, making it important for the country to focus this time on private consumption, Zhu added.
Tang Min, an adviser to the Chinese government, recently told reporters in Beijing that street traffic would not only create jobs but also address public concern about the internal congestion amid the ongoing pandemic.
“But it can’t replace the ‘regular’ economy; what can be sold or bought on the streets is very limited,” Tang said. “The government cannot let a verification be done without reviewing it. It must be regulated so that we continue to experiment and explore this option.”
During the May annual political meeting, Li was blunt about China’s problems and the extent to which some people could not participate in the country’s high-tech future. About 600 million Chinese, about 40% of the population, earn an average of only 1,000 yuan ($ 141) a month.
“He tries to solve the most urgent problems with a … realistic approach” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Hong Kong Center for Chinese Studies. While you may say that the street vendor’s approach isn’t perfect, there may not be a better alternative to creating many jobs in the short term.
“Employment is an extremely important issue that can trigger political unrest … Apparently, Li is concerned about the disastrous outcome of the massive job losses.”
Tsang, director of the China SOAS Institute, said Li is likely to try to do his job by overseeing the country’s key economic policies.
“The pandemic had translated into the possibility of playing more of the well-established role of the prime minister in the exercise of the economy,” something that was sidelined most of the time in the Xi era. “He saw how the economic impact of Covid-19 would require a pragmatic and more emphatic approach, thus allowing, even encouraging, street vending for the ceded as a result of the pandemic.”
Local governments are moving forward
Public debate over Li’s push for street vendors in China has faded in recent days, as major cities – including Beijing and Shenzhen – make it clear that politics is not welcome.
“Street stalls won’t actually disappear altogether,” said Lam, a professor at China University in Hong Kong. He hoped local governments would push for the plan, as long as unemployment remains a top concern.