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China: Persecuting economic crimes

Capitalism is now officially approved at the Party level, but with otherwise law-abiding small-scale sidewalk sellers nation-wide operating in constant fear and in conflict with (photos) the chengguan (more photos), the urban management forces found in every city, has this ideological thaw trickled down to the streets? Not yet, says 50mm photoblogger Bai Xiaoci in his post this past week, Barbecue Stall.



Down on the southern part of Jingtian road in Shenzhen‘s Futian district, all the conveniences of life can be found; gathered near Xiangmei Market are many hawkers who come and go, every morning there's a temporary vegetable market. There was a time when they were nowhere to be seen, chased away by the urban management, but now they've made a bit of a comeback. At night, the barbecue stalls come on stage. Some of them are more permanent, like the one in the garden behind the tow truck lot, and another across from the west corner of Xiangmisan Village.


The barbecue stalls appear on the streets at midnight, after the garbage trucks have all driven off. Adding the fragrant scent of sizzling mutton into the salty air, these barbecue stalls can be found all over Shenzhen at night. They've become the main category of cheap night snacks in Shenzhen. Most diners know that the barbecue stalls, though they may appear so, aren't chain operations. Whether it's the choice of location, the business logo, the kinds of people employed or the kinds of foods supplied, they're all pretty much the same. Most barbecue stalls are run by a husband-wife team, with the man tending the grill and the woman in charge of taking care of diners. If they can feed ten people, with an average expenditure of fifteen yuan each, working five hours each day, their ideal income for each day would be about 750 RMB. They differ from Xinjiang barbecue stands in that they offer both meat and vegetable skewers. For meat they have mutton, oxen, chicken gristle, chicken wings, frog, goat knuckles, and some stands even offer oysters. For vegetables they have eggplant, string beans, leeks, enoki mushrooms, dried tofu and potatoes. Get a long, upright metal box for charcoal, put a sheet of wire netting on top for a grill, get a few stools, light the fire and you're open for business.


But honestly, talk of hygiene conditions aside, this barbecue is really tasty. I have one colleague who often goes down to one barbecue stall on the corner near Great Wall Towers. For a long time already, it's had a set crowd of regulars, mostly kids who stay up all night, workers on the night shift. At midnight, when most shops have closed up for the night, these cheap and good barbecue stalls are their second choice. The barbecue business is booming, has even become an established industry chain, and has even given birth to a new profession. They say that inside inner-city villages, many people make a living by peeling bamboo and selling it in batches to the barbecue stall owners. The many people coming for barbecue has had a positive influence on the little shops in the area. One newspaper kiosk nearby used to close at eight at night, but now with the barbecue stands, it's extended its operating hours, because the BBQers always drink beer and herbal tea and other such drinks which are inconvenient for the barbecue stall owners to carry around, allowing the newspaper kiosk a share of the consumer profits. Their economic relationship is just like that of the beekeeper and the apple farmer in Steven N.S. Cheung‘s ‘The Fable of the Bees‘.


The natural enemies of the barbecue trade are the personnel of the urban management enforcement squad, whose enforcement strength is directly related to the continued existence of the barbecue stands, and also affects the quality level of barbecue in the area, for whom the consequence of enforcement is the loss of means of livelihood. This is why barbecue vendors are so very particular in choosing locations. A good choice of location will, when urban management come by, effectively reduce losses, so they usually choose the green areas near main roads, which 1) guarantee people flow; 2) have a good line of view; 3) allow them to hide their barbecue cookware and ingredients in the bushes. In addition, the strength and frequency of enforcement differs between urban management squads in each area. Some areas only work in the daytime, others remain on patrol until midnight, some are only seen every few days and others only a few times each month. In areas where urban management patrol frequently, it's often hard to find high-quality barbecue. According to night owls, the best tasting barbecues are usually found in the inner-city villages and such rough places which are paid little attention, and quality levels rise rapidly. In Baishizhou and such places, some roadside barbecues have already grown for a few years to the point of having become brand names. After having accumulated enough capital, they rent proper spaces, hire wait staff and become legitimate food and beverage enteprises. Some even end up franchises.

“Bandits!”, “evil!”, “dogs”, “trash!”, “they've no place in a democratic country!” write many Chinese netizens of chengguans in response to a March 31 repost on the widely-read Tianya forumof the netbuzzing story of Beijing peddler Cui Yingjie who, last August, finding himself surrounded by ten chengguans, ended up killing one in the scuffle, then being sentenced to death, later being cast online as a martyr. Among the many responses to the post were this series of photos of a chengguan attack in process in what appears to be the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou:






  • Administrative fees or protection money?…

    Chengguan (城管) and other government agents take “service fees” from vendors and then turn a blind eye to the regulations….

  • 园子

    it is horrible!

  • KT

    Police and Urban Management personnel in Hong Kong have been chasing down unlicensed vendors for years. Most are not as dramatic as the case in these pictures, though. Also, I wonder all those street vendors in major American cities like NY, if they are under any regulations. I imagine they have to obtain licenses. Of course, acquiring a license in China through the proper channel could mean a lifetime’s work. I think sometimes it’s really the sheer number (of people) that makes things all so complicated.

  • amble

    It is hateful.

  • […] 清明时节雨纷纷,多少人 需要祭奠啊!不过中国人越来越发现“死不起 (GFWed )“了,活着累,死也难。北京地铁塌方事故 更 引发了人们对奥运安全的担忧 ,因为类似事故是否也有隐瞒呢 ?越来越多的事件 正在考问草根是否能够影响立法 。浙江台州的两院报告差点不能过关 ,难道有了电子表决器就有民主了吗?这个比较令人疑惑,就像有人说互联网因为匿名才敢说话一样。 […]

  • SistaFoundU

    Amazing images capturing this event! Thanks for posting.

    The public security officers have got to have BIGGER crime to chase than this. So tragic the events that ensued. . .the big fish still only go after the smallest fish.


  • mahathir_fan

    I think it is okay for more younger college students to join CCP as long as they join it because of their principles.

    I myself have read Karl Marx’s book on Capital. It is a good book. I recommend it. It is not very political(this one), and addresses a very important issue – an issue China is currently facing, the exploitation of Migrant workers.

    In fact, with the current exploitation of China’s migrant workers, rising property prices and standard of living; Communism is more relevant today in China than ever, and Karl Marx’s theories is more applicable than ever to China today.

    The problem with all these theories is of course, power hungry souls will spring up, offering their narrow interpretation of Communism and imprisoning everyone else who disagree with them.

    What is more dangerous also I see is that Chinese people are not well versed in Communism principles. I wonder why they didn’t teach Communism in schools. If we teach it like how we teach Ricardian theory or other economic theories, then more people will be able to debate and discuss the pro-cons of these theories and they will seem less threatening and people will be more open minded about doctoring these theories up and adapting them. Otherwise, these theories become like religions which cannot be criticized or scrutinized and then we have problem.

    Marx’s discussion on the problems of capitalism which he considered to be the exploitation of UNSKILLED workers is exactly the problem migrant workers in China are facing today.

    However, I disagree with Marx’s solutions as I think it is less destablizing (compared to a revolution) to instead focus on making today’s unskilled workers the skilled workers of tomorrow by providing free education(both professional and skilled trades) to their children.

    Marx’s theory does not predict that skilled workers would be exploited. In fact, skilled workers would command a premium to be paid by the capitalist. Thus raising education levels is one way we could address the problems that Communism is trying to fix.

  • […] A series of photos showing a chengguan apparently overstepping his authority in Guangzhou (the photos are at the bottom of the page, following a good discussion of the economic tensions rising in China.) […]

  • […] 原来科学研究就是在讨好上帝,看来上帝的马屁不好拍,否则为何不增加一下人类性器官的数量,让我们更加high?都说人类起源自非洲,那么上帝也极可能是一位非洲人。可是田园洞人的发现 看来中国人并不受上帝的管辖。唉,科学上的争吵更是让人眼迷耳乱,谁叫学术永远是少数人的事情 呢? IPv6 still haven’t been widely used, what should we do after the IP runs out in 2010?So doing scientific research is pleasing God, otherwise why don’t we increase more sex organs to get us higher? Everybody says that Human beings originated from Africa, in that case, God would probably be an African. However the discovery of Man at Tianyuan Cavity indicated that Chinese are under God’s control. Well, scientific argument is usually confusing as scientific research is always the task of the minority. [社会] 清明时节雨纷纷,多少人 需要祭奠啊!不过中国人越来越发现“死不起 (GFWed )“了,活着累,死也难。北京地铁塌方事故 更引发了人们对奥运安全的担忧 ,因为类似事故是否也有隐瞒呢 ?越来越多的事件 正在考问草根是否能够影响立法 。浙江台州的两院报告差点不能过关,难道有了电子表决器就有民主了吗?这个比较令人疑惑,就像有人说互联网因为匿名才敢说话一样。 [Society] Ching Ming Festival with endless drizzles, how many people need our commemoration. However, more and more Chinese realise that they could not afford to die (GFWed), for it’s hard to live, and hard to die. The collapse of Beijing subway station made people worry about the 2008 Olympic Games. More and more events are testing the possibility whether the grassroots could have impact on legislation. Two Judicial reports of Zhe Jiang Tai Zhou got a mere pass in the city People’s Congress, do we have democracy by using digital voting machine? This is as puzzling as some have argued that people could only speak out in the internet when they are anonymous. 歌曲都曾经要少一截的当下,Zola同重庆的“维权户”必然是要最终一起被和谐掉的,在这个时刻被GFW,也算是帮GFW作了一下推广,让更多人正视GFW的存在才算是支持英明的党。Zola 也可以回家继续卖菜了。虽然无法得知和解的真正的交易内幕,但Zola这么闹一把,展现出的个人媒体的能量已经足够让传统媒体重视起来了。重庆最牛维权户和开发商最终和解的结局不是某些国外媒体希望看到的,但是看大片的心态也未必不在国人心中存在… In a situation when popular songs have to be edited for distribution, Zola’s story and the Chongqin “civic right house” of course have been harmonized all together. Now that it is GFWed, it serves as a promotion for the GFW. Zola can go home and continue his market life. Though we could never get to know the inside story of the deal, Zola’s action has already shown the power of individual media and gained the respect from traditional media. The final compromise of the nail householders and the developer were probably not what some of the foreign medias wanted to see, however, the attitude of watching big movie has been shared by some Chinese as well… 科级干部能够有600平米的住房 ,看来我们都得向政府官员们学习。不过中华全国总工会还是挺关心工人阶级利益的,要不然怎么会给“麦当劳 ”和沃尔玛那么多压力呢? […]

  • […] often limited to cracking down on unlicensed business operations in urban areas, most visibly in chasing away streetside vendors and smashing or confiscating their goods, but as netizens have noted in their outrage at Wei's […]

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