Night Markets Set to Flourish around China Following Policies to Spur Street Vendor Economies

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Local governments around China have launched policies to spur the growth and activity of their street vendor economies, amidst a broader push by the central government to keep the national economy afloat in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang re­cently sig­nalled the launch of poli­cies to bet­ter ac­co­mo­date and en­cour­age com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity by street ven­dors, while the Cen­tral Civil­i­sa­tion Of­fice (中央文明办) sub­se­quently an­nounced that it would not in­clude “busi­ness ac­tiv­ity oc­cu­py­ing roads, road mar­kets and itin­er­ant com­mer­cial pad­dlers” in its as­sess­ments of the ci­vil­ity lev­els of cities. 

These moves from the Chinese central government have triggered intense public response, with Weibo reads involving the terms “street vendor economy” (地摊经济) exceeding 600 million as of 4 June.

At least 27 of China’s local governments have since unveiled policies to spur the growth and activity of street vendor economies within their respective jurisdictions.

This includes cities such as Shanghai, Nanning, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Changchun, Hefei, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Changsha, Shijiazhuang, Qingdao, Deyang, Nanchong, Ziyang and Suining, and provinces such as Gansu, Jinan, Shaanxi, Liaoning, Jiangxi.

On 3 June the Shanghai municipal government announced that it would launch its first “Shanghai Nightlife Festival” (上海夜生活节), to run from 6 – 30 June, involving fireworks, Shanghaignese cuisine and fashion.

Shanghai also issued the “Shanghai Municipal Urban Management Administrative Enforcement Department Guidance Opinions on Optimising Commercial Environments” (上海市城市管理行政执法局关于优化营商环境的指导意见), which seek to “drive development of the night market economy.”

The Opinions will “guide night market management entities and implement vendor self-regulation,” as well as support special small proprietors in undertaking “outdoors stall” operations.

On 2 June the Jinan municipal government announced measures to foster the growth of night markets and small proprietor businesses, while on the same date the Nanning municipal government issued the “Guidance Opinions on Properly Performing Services Work for Road-occupying Business, Street Markets and Itinerant Vendors” (关于做好占道经营、马路市场、流动摊贩等服务工作的指导意见), which will remain in effect until 31 December.

2 June also saw the Henan province capital of Zhengzhou issue the “Opinions Concerning Thorough Penetration of Development Ideology that Focuses on the People and Further Effectively Performing Welfare Work for the People” (关于贯彻以人民为中心发展思想 进一步做好为民造福工作的意见).

The Opinions call for allowing night markets to operate in key development areas in all of Zhengzhou’s counties.

At an even earlier date the Jiangsu province capital of Nanjing issued the “Guidance Opinions on Properly Performing Service Management Work for Temporary Outdoors Stall Site Points During the Disease Prevention Period” (做好防疫期间临时外摆摊点服务管理工作的指导意见) on 1 May.

The Guidance Opinions designate a further 134 provisional stall locations, adding 1410 provisional stall site points to 3400 existing ones.

The Sichuan province capital issued measures on 14 March to allow for the establishment of temporary stall sites on streets, as well as street vendors to operate beyond premise thresholds and itinerant vendors to sell goods.

As of 28 May Chengdu had established 2230 temporary street stall sites and areas, as well as given permission to 17,147 operating sites outside premise thresholds and 20,130 itinerant vendors. The Chengdu government claims that these measures have created at least 100,000 new jobs.

The Anhui province capital of Hefei has created special districts where street vendors are allowed to operate, while since June of last year Xiamen has allowed 1150 vendors to operate across 50 locations in the Fujian province city.

On 27 May Shaanxi province issued a notice calling for urban areas to allow street-side stalls and temporary street vendor sites in certain areas, while the provincial capital of Xi’an plans to set aside 100 locations for morning fruit and vegetable markets, 100 locations for night market barbecue vendors and 100 temporary street side food stalls.

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