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Street vendors buoy local economy

By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao, Shandong and Liu Yukun in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-04 09:25
Children enjoy shish kebab at a small restaurant in Beijing. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

Street vendors are expected to make a comeback in major Chinese cities after authorities urged policy support for the sector in a bid to boost people's income and revive local economies hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government will provide support for the street-stall and small-store economy and inject new vitality into the Chinese economy, Premier Li Keqiang said during an inspection tour to Yantai, East China's Shandong province, on Monday.

The country will build a better future when enterprises and self-employed businesses in the Chinese market survive and thrive, he said.

Street stalls and markets were a substantial economic source for rural migrants in cities. The street vending market often supplied consumer goods at lower prices, which are affordable for the urban poor. They were ubiquitous at night providing shopping and dining options for people returning after work and for those who enjoy late-night dining or shopping.

However, as the country stepped up its urban development pace, street stalls were moved out to keep cities clean and tidy as well as to facilitate local traffic operations.

On May 28, the Office of the Central Spiritual Civilization Development Steering Commission said that from this year onward, roadside booths, street markets and mobile vendors will no longer be an assessment criteria for affirming and entitling a civilized city nationwide.

Wei Jigang, director of the research department of industrial economy under the Development Research Center of the State Council, said the move will encourage street markets and mobile vendors to play an active role in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

"Encouraging street markets and mobile vendors is necessary to increase employment. For those who have jobs, starting street market businesses also helps in generating more income at lower costs. However, it is also important for local governments to roll out regulations to ensure security and hygiene," Wei said.

Some cities have swiftly recognized the trend and taken the lead in opening street stalls and street markets.

Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, has been allowing people to run businesses in designated areas on some pedestrian streets since March 15 in a move to boost the economy, when the COVID-19 pandemic was effectively contained.

The city has designated more than 2,234 roadside business areas, 82 promotion areas on streets near large shopping malls and 17,891 vending spots, creating more than 100,000 jobs, the city government said.

On Saturday, Changchun, capital of Jilin province, announced that it would encourage and support the opening of night markets and temporarily lift a ban on roadside markets. Night markets and food stalls can be opened in designated areas in parks, public squares and empty spaces as long as they don't interrupt traffic and local life. They also have to pass environmental protection assessments, the office said.

Yichang in Hubei province has from Sunday allowed downtown stores to establish roadside stalls for the next two months, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

Local residents have also welcomed the reopening of roadside businesses.

At Zhuhailu neighborhood in Qingdao, Shandong province, where 4,000 people reside, the local neighborhood committee has allowed some roadside stalls in certain areas of the compound.

"My income has increased after I started a roadside business," said Xin Zhaochun, owner of a grocery stall at the Xinjiazhuang community. Apart from selling vegetables and fruit, Xin delivers packed seafood, such as boxes of oysters or clams. By enabling pre-order facility on his WeChat account, Xin has also managed to have efficient communication with his customers in the neighborhood.

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