Thursday, April 9, 2009

'the legality and justification of the street vendor economy'

Street vendors play a cat and mouse game with the local security task force in Chongqing, China, The Economic Observer reports. A month after financial crisis set in last October, the number of street vendors in the city tripled, the paper says, creating tension with law enforcement authorities.

And, indeed, there's been a long history of police violence against street merchants. Consider: On August 17th, 2004, a 14-year old girl who was selling flowers at the Three Gorges Square in Chongqing was arrested by street patrols, who then held her by under water and beat her up. And, on July 30, 2008, Liu Jianping, a street vendor who was arrested for blocking a road, was beaten to death by street patrols.

In an interview that runs alongside the article, Chinese political scientist He Bing suggests that the government and the public should admit "the legality and justification of the street vendors":

Generally speaking, the street vendor economy is efficient, and constitutes an important part of the market economy. Besides increasing GDP, the street vendor economy has many other advantages, such as satisfying the needs of low-level consumers and common people, for which cheap street stands are ideal shopping places for daily commodities.

Moreover, street vendors enrich city culture by creating a special street culture that appeals to tourists and citizens seeking to experience local customs. For example, there are street artists in Paris, while in our country, there are temple fairs and night markets, which not only provide shopping convenience but also become a unique part of the city. Street vendors can make the city more fascinating by revitalizing streets and efficiently using public spaces. Just like outdoor bars in Europe, street vendors in Asia also contribute to the diversity of city life, and enliven the communication between the city and the country. Most importantly, the street vendor economy can provide jobs. Facing the limits of money, trade and age, street vendor business has become an employment shortcut with low barriers to entry.

1 comment:

Qianqi Shen said...

Dear Robert,
It was so nice meeting you the other night at Columbia! I am the urban planning student from Guangzhou. I was quite inspired by your study. In fact, I think as a planning student, the skills and experience to get to know people and interview with them, are really things we need to know more and couldn't get much from school. I would really like to talk to you some time in the future and know more about the study you did. And also, if you might be in need of any help in translation or any travel guidance in Guangzhou or Shanghai, I have been in these two cities for a very long time (I grew up in Guangzhou and I did my undergrad in Shanghai), and I would be more than happy to offer my help. I can be reached by this email: Thank you very much for the talk the other night again, and look forward to talking with you in the future!