søndag 28. juni 2020

Can millions more street vendors save China from a jobs crisis? Beijing appears divided

For years, China staked its future on world class manufacturing and new technology. Now, it's having to contemplate a simpler, and older, solution to its looming jobs crisis involving millions more street vendors — and the idea is exposing divisions in Beijing.

It began to gain traction last month when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang — the second-highest ranking official in China after President Xi Jinping — praised the city of Chengdu for creating 100,000 jobs overnight by setting up tens of thousands of street stalls, which typically sell food, fresh vegetables, clothes and toys.

The government needs to try harder to create new jobs by "breaking through stereotypes," Li said during a major annual political gathering in Beijing. "China has a labor force of 900 million. Without jobs, there are 900 million mouths that need to be fed. With jobs, there are 900 million pairs of hands that can create enormous wealth."

The suggestion that street vendors could be the answer to China's unemployment problem wasn't limited to Li's remarks at the gathering. "Mobile vendors" were also mentioned in his annual government work report — which charts Beijing's priorities for the year — for the first time since he took office seven years ago. Li continued praising street vendors after the gathering during a visit to eastern Shandong province.