Photos: China’s street stalls stand up to economic turmoil

After month of pressure on the economy due to coronavirus restrictions small, first-time hawkers are mushrooming in marketplaces but face a mixed responses from the establishment. From traditionally being seen as eyesores on China’s forward looking urban landscapes, to being compared by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at par with high-end luxury stores during a recent meeting with street stall owners –street stalls are China's newest business fad but are still being treated by authorities as an old menace.

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST 8 Photos
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Street vendors selling clothes at an outdoor market in Wuhan on June 8. Chinese citizens hard-hit by this year’s economic turmoil are selling their wares on the streets after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered support to hawkers despite long-standing curbs on the practice. (AFP)

Street vendors selling clothes at an outdoor market in Wuhan on June 8. Chinese citizens hard-hit by this year’s economic turmoil are selling their wares on the streets after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered support to hawkers despite long-standing curbs on the practice. (AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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Many vendors are however meeting stiff resistance from police, who have spent years trying to sweep such stalls off the streets to clean up their city’s image, and urban management officers known as “chengguan,” who have repeatedly and sometimes violently cracked down on street pedlars who are usually low-income migrant workers. (AFP)

Many vendors are however meeting stiff resistance from police, who have spent years trying to sweep such stalls off the streets to clean up their city’s image, and urban management officers known as “chengguan,” who have repeatedly and sometimes violently cracked down on street pedlars who are usually low-income migrant workers. (AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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A street vendor sell products to a customer beside a police cabin on the roadside in Beijing on June 10. “The street vendor economy and the small shop economy are important sources of employment... and are just as vital to China as high-end luxury stores,” Li Keqiang told traders during a visit to northeast China last week, after asking how they had fared during months of restrictions due to the coronavirus. (GREG BAKER / AFP)

A street vendor sell products to a customer beside a police cabin on the roadside in Beijing on June 10. “The street vendor economy and the small shop economy are important sources of employment... and are just as vital to China as high-end luxury stores,” Li Keqiang told traders during a visit to northeast China last week, after asking how they had fared during months of restrictions due to the coronavirus. (GREG BAKER / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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Street vendors sell clothes in an outdoor market in Wuhan. While not backed by any formal policy, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s comments spurred people nationwide to set up street stalls, including on the back of bikes and even on pavements. But just as they took to the streets, they were shooed out of central hotspots in Beijing. (AFP)

Street vendors sell clothes in an outdoor market in Wuhan. While not backed by any formal policy, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s comments spurred people nationwide to set up street stalls, including on the back of bikes and even on pavements. But just as they took to the streets, they were shooed out of central hotspots in Beijing. (AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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A man plays a ring-toss game at an outdoor market in Wuhan on June 10. People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, called for stricter oversight of street traders, while the state-run Beijing Daily claimed that the stalls were backward and “not suited” to the city, AFP reported. (AFP)

A man plays a ring-toss game at an outdoor market in Wuhan on June 10. People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, called for stricter oversight of street traders, while the state-run Beijing Daily claimed that the stalls were backward and “not suited” to the city, AFP reported. (AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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There has been some online rejoicing of street vending with hashtags including “If you were a street vendor, what would you sell?” and “Everyone is street selling” getting millions of views on Weibo. Even so, photos of streets crammed with stalls and car boot sales have been going viral on Weibo, where many first-time stall holders -- often millennials -- complained business was slow. (GREG BAKER / AFP)

There has been some online rejoicing of street vending with hashtags including “If you were a street vendor, what would you sell?” and “Everyone is street selling” getting millions of views on Weibo. Even so, photos of streets crammed with stalls and car boot sales have been going viral on Weibo, where many first-time stall holders -- often millennials -- complained business was slow. (GREG BAKER / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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People at a street food vendor’s in Beijing on June 10. Tang Min, former chief economist of the Asian Development Bank’s mission in China, told a government-organised press conference on June 11 that street stalls can create some new employment but “cannot replace the formal economy.” But no country would allow “street stalls everywhere, with disorder everywhere,” he added. (GREG BAKER / AFP)

People at a street food vendor’s in Beijing on June 10. Tang Min, former chief economist of the Asian Development Bank’s mission in China, told a government-organised press conference on June 11 that street stalls can create some new employment but “cannot replace the formal economy.” But no country would allow “street stalls everywhere, with disorder everywhere,” he added. (GREG BAKER / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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People at an outdoor market in Wuhan on June 10. “Although it seems sensible to relax regulations on self-employment activity in times of recession... I am sceptical that promoting a street vendor economy will substantially boost consumption,” Albert Park, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology told AFP. (AFP)

People at an outdoor market in Wuhan on June 10. “Although it seems sensible to relax regulations on self-employment activity in times of recession... I am sceptical that promoting a street vendor economy will substantially boost consumption,” Albert Park, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology told AFP. (AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2020 10:28 AM IST
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