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Chinese leaders are now thinking seriously of allowing street vendors to ply their trade as the country grapples with the grim reality that the COVID-19 pandemic that started in Wuhan City in Hubei province had gutted up to 80 million jobs in a country where 600 million people, about 40% of the population, earn an average of just 1,000 yuan ($141) per month.

In an analysis by CNN Business on June 28, 2020, Chinese officials led by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang — the second-highest ranking official in China after President Xi Jinping — praised the city of Chengdu for creating 100,000 jobs overnight by setting up tens of thousands of street stalls, which typically sell food, fresh vegetables, clothes and toys.

Li wants a return to the past and criticized those who live by stereotypes and regard hawking as “dirty” and “uncivilized.” The Chinese leader said “China has a labor force of 900 million. Without jobs, there are 900 million mouths that need to be fed. With jobs, there are 900 million pairs of hands that can create enormous wealth."

However, People’s Daily tagged published several articles that blasted street vending stalls noisy, obstructive and capable of tarnishing "the capital city's image and the nation's image." An influx of street vendors in major cities would be "uncivilized," the state broadcaster CCTV wrote in a commentary piece published online earlier this month. It criticized the idea, without mentioning the premier, as akin to "going back overnight to several decades ago." Yet, China, which brags about its being the world’s second biggest economy, has seen its gross domestic product (GDP) shrink for the first time in several decades and has had difficulty generating the 11 million jobs it had to produce before the pandemic struck.

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