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Can street vendors save China from a job crisis? Beijing looks divided



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It started gaining traction last month when Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang – the second highest ranking official in China after President Xi Jinping – praised the city of Chengdu to create 100,000 jobs overnight by setting up tens of thousands of street stalls, which usually sell food, fresh vegetables, clothing, and toys.

The government needs to try harder to create new jobs by “breaking through stereotypes,” Li the word during the main annual political meeting in Beijing. “China has 900 million workers. Without jobs, there are 900 million mouths that need to be fed. With jobs, there are 900 million pairs of hands that can create extraordinary wealth.”
Suggestions that street vendors can be the answer to China’s unemployment problem are not limited to Li’s statement at the meeting. “Cellular vendors” are also mentioned in the annual report government work report – which maps Beijing’s priorities for this year – for the first time since he took office seven years ago. Li continued to praise street vendors after a meeting during a visit to eastern Shandong province.
Li’s message came at a time of stress for the world second largest economy. From January to March, China’s GDP shrunk for the first time in a few decades. The unemployment rate has also worsened since 2008 coronavirus pandemic begins, and unofficial analysis shows that as much 80 million people might not work this spring. Before the outbreak, authorities said they needed to create around 11 million new jobs each year to keep jobs on track.
But the reaction to Li’s tone in Chinese state media was fast and vicious. The entry of street vendors in big cities will be “uncivilized,” CCTV broadcasters wrote the comments section published online earlier this month. It criticized the idea, without mentioning the prime minister, as “returning overnight to a few decades ago.”
And Beijing Daily, the official city government newspaper, published several articles street vendor stalls as noisy, obstructive and able to tarnish “the image of the capital and the image of the nation.”

Impetus for technology

The idea of ​​vendors flooding the streets of high-tech metropolitan cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen caused controversy in China in part because Beijing has spent years growing the country’s image as an advanced global superpower. Xi The signature policy project, “Made in China 2025,” has pushed the country to compete with the United States to gain influence through billions of dollars of investment in future technology.

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“Street hawking is something that Xi doesn’t like, because it tarnishes the successful and beautiful image of China that he likes to project,” said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

Xi himself in recent weeks has reaffirmed his long-standing push for high-tech solutions to China’s economic woes. He recently called on countries to invest in next-generation 5G and satellite networks as part of a plan to encourage economic growth and employment.

“Efforts must be made in promoting innovation in science and technology and accelerating the development of strategic developing industries,” Xi said last month in a meeting with political advisers, according to the CGTN government broadcast.
The smartphone was displayed at the Huawei store before its opening in Shanghai this month.

Hard political reality

But Xiaobo Lu, professor of political science Ann Whitney Olin at Barnard College, said Li’s ideas had several advantages. China has set a goal eliminate poverty by the end of this year, and Lu notes that street sales and other simple jobs are where people living above the poverty line can “find a way to survive.”

In addition, he said, it might not be as effective as Beijing used to hold large and expensive infrastructure projects as a way to overcome its economic problems.

China’s response to its last major economic shock – the 2008-2009 global financial crisis – involved massive investment in roads, airports and high-speed rail lines. This time, the stimulus line is saturated.

“In many aspects, even measured by holding per capita, China has achieved global leading status” in infrastructure, writes Zhu Ning, finance professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and a faculty fellow at Yale University, in a research report early this year. “Therefore, the need for infrastructure has changed greatly compared to 2008.”

The recent financial crisis also left China with a lot of debt, so it was important for this country to focus this time on private consumption, Zhu added.

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Tang Min, an adviser to the Chinese government, recently told reporters in Beijing that peddling the streets will not only create jobs but also address public concerns about overcrowding indoors amid the ongoing pandemic.

“But that cannot replace the ‘ordinary’ economy – what can be sold or bought on the streets is very limited,” Tang said. “The government cannot leave it unmanageable – it must be regulated as we continue to experiment and explore this option.”

During May’s annual political meeting, Li was frank about China’s problems, and the extent to which some people might not be able to participate in the country’s high-tech future. About 600 million Chinese – about 40% of the population – earn an average of only 1,000 yuan ($ 141) per month.

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That makes street vendors work as “the main source of work,” Li the word during his visit to Shandong province this month, adding that such work kept China “alive” as well as upscale industry. A state media news report states that lifting restrictions on street stalls – such as allowing roadside businesses in urban areas – could result in the creation of as many as 50 million new jobs.

“Li is trying to overcome an urgent problem with … a realistic approach,” said Willy Lam, assistant professor at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Hong Kong. Even though the street vendor’s approach might not be perfect, he said, there might not be a better alternative to creating a lot of work in a short amount of time.

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“Employment is a very important issue that can trigger political upheaval … Li seems to be worried about the catastrophic results of massive job losses.”

A Uyghur man sells traditional flatbread to female buyers along Beijing's Xinjiang Road in 1999.

Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, said that Li was likely just trying to do his job overseeing the country’s main economic policies.

“The pandemic has allowed him to play more of the prime minister’s established role in running the economy, something he has often tracked in the Xi era,” Tsang said. “He sees how the economic impact of Covid-19 will require a pragmatic and more assertive approach, so as to enable, even encourage, street sellers for those who are laid off as a result of a pandemic.”

The regional government is moving forward

Public discussions about Li’s insistence on street vendors in China have faded in recent days because big cities – including Beijing and Shenzhen – explain that the policy is not accepted there.

But other local governments in less prosperous areas quietly pushed the idea forward. Lanzhou, the capital of northwestern Gansu province, on Tuesday announced plan to set up nearly 11,000 street vendor stalls – a plan that is expected to create at least 300,000 jobs.
Changchun, the capital of northeastern Jilin province, also promoted the idea. The provincial Communist Party boss visited a hawker stall in Changchun earlier this month and praised the business for having a “low entry barrier” for people who just want to find work, according to Jilin provincial government.

“In fact, street stalls will not completely disappear,” said Lam, professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He hopes the regional government will continue to advance with the plan as long as unemployment remains a major concern.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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