A recent article on Chinese News Weekly interviewed a Chinese couple who sell noodles at a market in London. The couple praised Britain’s version of “Chengguan” (urban management teams) for their diplomatic approach and the article seemed to suggest that China’s troubled Chengguan team could perhaps draw some valuable lessons from the UK.
The couple in question has been selling pulled noodles and other Chinese snacks for five years at a market in East London and are said to enjoy good business. When interviewed, they said that London’s Chengguan doesn’t appear very often but when they do it is to make sure that their food meets the food safety standards. When a problem arises, they usually never resort to immediately banning the stall, but issue warnings, reminders and instructions instead. After issuing the warnings, they usually come back some time later to inspect if the instructions have been adhered to.
In contrast, the reputation of China’s Chengguan has been dragged through the dirt due to constant reports of Chengguan acting violently towards vendors or destroying their stalls on the spot. This is of course only one side of the story however and most street vendors in China are in fact operating illegally.
That said, could a system of polite warning and reminders work in China? We’re somehow skeptical.