Mini mar­kets, ven­dors in­te­gral part of city

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Some mini-veg­etable mar­kets were re­cently shut down in Bei­jing and some break­fast sellers “per­suaded” to “go home”. Af­ter Bei­jing launched a new­cam­paign to “free the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of non-cap­i­tal func­tions” ear­lier this year, such in­ci­dents have been re­ported from many com­mu­ni­ties, with many res­i­dents com­plain­ing about the in­con­ve­nience they have caused. Even Peo­ple’s Daily has said it’s not right to shift veg­etable mar­kets away from res­i­dents.

Free­ing Bei­jing of “non-cap­i­tal func­tions” may be a good move be­cause the me­trop­o­lis has be­come very crowded. By the end of 2015, Bei­jing’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion had reached 21 mil­lion, al­most three times that of Lon­don and NewYork. And its sub­ways are so crowded that peo­ple joc­u­larly say a sar­dine tin is no longer a good metaphor for them.

But the phrase “non-cap­i­tal func­tions” should not be mis­un­der­stood or mis­in­ter­preted. It seems the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to move the low-end work­force out of the city and keep only high­end em­ploy­ees who earn higher in­comes, pay more tax and gen­er­ally carry a bet­ter im­age.

By do­ing so, they are for­get­ting Eco­nom­ics 101— that the la­bor mar­ket is shaped like a pyra­mid, and top-end la­bor-force, fa­vored by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, needs a large num­ber of lower-level work­ers as sup­port. For ex­am­ple, a se­nior banker needs sev­eral whitecol­lar work­ers, in­clud­ing doc­tors and lawyers, to serve him/her. The doc­tors and lawyers, in turn, need oth­ers such as nurses, clean­ers, bar­bers and cooks in restau­rants to meet his daily needs. If the elite work­ers live in Bei­jing, they will need the white-col­lar as well as the other work­ers just to sur­vive.

In other words, to sur­vive, Bei­jing res­i­dents need to buy break­fast, veg­eta­bles and clothes, get their houses and of­fices cleaned, and seek treat­ment for their ail­ments. This makes break­fast ven­dors and mini-veg­etable mar­kets an in­te­gral part of the city.

Shen Chi is di­rec­tor of the Plan­ning In­sti­tute of China’s Cen­ter for Ur­ban Devel­op­ment af­fil­i­ated to the Na­tional Devel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion. The ar­ti­cle is an ex­cerpt from his in­ter­view with China Daily’s Zhang Zhoux­i­ang.


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