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A new Government policy may just mean a street food revival across China

It’s part of a nationwide effort to boost jobs and speculation is skyrocketing

Photograph: Vernon Raineil Cenzon via Unsplash
In potentially great news for China's street food and vendor scene, the Chinese government has announced a policy that could see them making a comeback as part of a plan to boost the country's economy that's been hit by the pandemic. This comes after years of trying to get stalls off the streets.

In an announcement at the end of May, China’s Central Civilisation Committee stated that it will not include roadside seating, street markets and mobile vendors in its 'Civilised Cities Assessment' this year. The evaluation that rates cities according to various criteria from the number of public green spaces to pollution levels to street cleanliness is seen as a strong indicator of the effectiveness of local government. Now that it's easing off on street food stalls that had been categorised as unsightly and started disappearing from the streets two decades ago, the speculation for their return is skyrocketing.

After the announcement, the new policy was endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang during a state trip to Yantai, Shandong Province last week on June 1, where he was reported as saying the 'stall economy' and small stores are the 'soul of China', further cementing the Government’s stance on bringing back street vendors.

While cities across China have been embracing the policy, viewing it as a good way to create more jobs, it seems metropolises like Shanghai may be approaching it with caution. The Shanghai Urban Management and Law Enforcement Bureau released a plan to promote a 'night market economy' that allows 'speciality stores' to operate on roadside areas, while strictly regulating their opening times, areas and waste management. According to Caijing, although larger, regulated markets (like Green Escape St on Anyi Lu, Fengjing Lu Night Market near the Bund Finance Center and the Yuyuan 6.30 Night Market) are being encouraged, individual vendors haven't yet been given the go-ahead with concerns surrounding the 'how' and 'where' of the setup.

So while there's no word yet on when/if we might expect a street food revival here in Shanghai, here's to hoping...

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