Recently, the Office of the Central Steering Committee for the Construction of Spiritual Civilization has taken actions in order to adapt the long-term prevention and control of Covid-19. In this year’s national evaluation indicators for civilized cities, it has been clearly required that road management, outdoor markets, and mobile traders should not be included in the evaluation and assessment of civilized cities, aiming to accelerate the process of restoring economic and social order and meeting the needs of people’s lives.
Over the past decade, China has strengthened the management of small stores and vendors in major cities for the purpose of optimizing the urban environment, ensuring clear roads, promoting public health, and reducing fire hazards. Apart from a thorough investigation of business permits and hygiene permits, small vendors without storefronts are generally not allowed to operate outside, nor are restaurants allowed to put tables and chairs on the sidewalk or on the road to expand their space and provide outdoor services at night.
Objectively, this management has indeed achieved some goals in health, fire prevention, noise control, and so on, but they have also changed the original operations of many Chinese cities. Although some residents hate the messy problem of small vendors, especially mobile traders, some residents are happy to obtain cheap goods and services through those people. In addition, open-air dining such as night markets are a desirable part of urban life. After the prohibition, some people feel that their original way to live has been affected.
What is more important is not what consumers think, but what operators do. The majority of itinerant vendors lack formal jobs and are wealth enough to set up stores, so they can only operate stalls with the lowest cost to feed their families. After the prohibition, many of them have less income channels and have no choice but to take odd jobs from place to place.
At present, the epidemic has seriously restricted the floating population and made it more difficult for those who lack formal jobs to obtain income, which increases the likelihood that these urban poor cannot meet their basic living needs and may trigger some of them to take dangerous actions. Therefore, it is more likely that the opening up of road side business is due to economic considerations rather than just a restoration of the original urban appearance.
Most residents can understand the reasons for the policy change, and even though some of them once hated itinerant traders, the current economic pressure has made everyone aware of the importance of a rapid recovery of industry and commerce. But even so, the normal Chinese still believe that the ban is only temporary, and the Chinese government will restart the prohibition in the future to make Chinese cities safer and clean.