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Chinese internet goes viral with memes as govt allows street hawkers

Even as street vendors in India vanished overnight due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown, the last few weeks have seen hawkers and street sellers sprout up in the cities of China. 

In a bid to revive the loss to the economy, the government in China has relaxed regulations for hawkers, allowing them to sell on the streets and get their business back on track. Previously, hawkers and street vendors weren’t allowed in cities like Beijing and Shanghai as the administration focused on keeping cities neat and tidy.

This comes as India announced a stimulus package microcredit of up to Rs 10,000 for more than 5 million street vendors. 

“Hawker culture has suddenly sprung up in China in the past few weeks. I see people selling fruits, apparels, meat and grocery among many things,” said Boris Jun who works at a fintech corporation in south Beijing. “People buy from them frequently, as much as thrice a day sometimes.” 

A sudden spike in the number of hawkers on the street has also led to a string of memes that have gone viral on the internet. Chinese citizens, while also purchasing from the vendors offline are sharing memes and photoshopped pictures of this new situation online. Images inspired by comic book characters Batman, Iron Man selling meat steaks and T-shirts have taken over Chinese Internet.

“Such memes are all over social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, Kwai, Toutiao. People are making fun of the growing hawking culture,” added Jun. 

Another trend that has been triggered due to this move is that van manufacturer Wuling Motors saw its stock price jump 2.5X in value in the past two days. The stock was valued 0.20 HKD on the HongKong Stock Exchange until the announcement and then saw the price climb up to 0.50 HKD yesterday. Wuling manufactures light and inexpensive (as low as Rs 3.25 lakh) commercial vehicles primarily used by small merchants in China.

The jump in Wuling stocks is driven by the optimism that its vehicles will see a surge in demand as the government has relaxed the regulation for the hawking economy.

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