June 10th, 2020

mom walk

street vendor update

One good thing has happened in China in the last 12 months. It happened about 10 days ago. The premier, Li Keqiang, said that in order to revive the Chinese economy, people should be encouraged to get back on the streets and sell fried treats and shady wares.

If you've read my journal for a while, you'll know i think street vendors are by far the best place to buy food in this country. (Second best place is plastic stool restaurants.) Unfortunately over the 3 years i've lived here, street vendors are getting pushed further and further out of the city. They're constantly harassed by the police, made to pay bribes or get new paperwork, come back after 10pm, or don't come back at all. The party line is that street vendors should just fuck off back to their home province and stop bringing down "civilized society" with their "low end" filth.

So it was a real surprise to hear one of the top guys in China suggest they should be allowed to return. I didn't write about it here in my journal because i was skeptical... and sure enough, a few days after Li Keqiang gets praised to the moon and back by netizens craving fried chicken and spring onion pancakes, the state media decided to issue a blistering array of editorials saying that street vendors are low class trash that have no place in tier one cities. Beijing, world capital of gentrification out the barrel of a gun, even called in the cops to do a new crackdown on the poor folks who mistakenly thought the government might actually allow them to scrape together a meager post-corona income.

Some China watchers think this is more proof that Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are at loggerheads and Xi doesn't like it when Li gets the spotlight, especially not for a populist suggestion like bringing delicious food back to the people.

In reality that's probably China watcher fan fic. I think it's just the usual party shit of saying something contrary to what they said before, not thinking it was going to be a big deal, then suddenly realizing that half the country was pissed at their original policy, so now they need to do another U-turn and re-embrace it to save face, while pretending like they were consistent all along and actually it was just the ignorant public who misunderstood. It's so blatant. But - as we know from coronavirus and the Hong Kong protests - they are only going to need about a week of bludgeoning everyone over the head with propaganda to get people to shut up and toe the party line.

I wasn't holding out much hope to ever get a cart noodle again. But then today i walked into my village (still fenced in, still with policed checkpoints) and lo, there was my favorite street vendor with the home fry potatoes and the fried dumplings. 好久不见 long time no see! I immediately ordered one of each and skipped home with the biggest smile on my face. In the alleys were loads of people with blankets laid out on the ground selling lychees fresh off the tree and weird cellphone accessories that probably fell off the back of a truck. Because i live in an urban village, which is filled with people whose livelihoods are exactly this kind of "low class" vending, you bet your ass they are going to jump on whatever tiny window they get. We'll see how long it lasts.

In the mean time. Om nom nom.