Saturday, July 14, 2012

Busting The Breakfast People

Here was the scene outside of our apartment the other morning, when the police came and busted a collection of people who sell breakfast foods from out of the back of their three-wheeled cycles.

A bit of background first. Every morning, by 6am, there is a collection of sanlunche, these three-wheelers that are either powered by foot or electric motor, parked on the street, with steam filling the air and the sounds of the on-the-ground economy echoing up and down Zhongguancun Lu. For less than a buck, you can enjoy an on-the-go breakfast of youtiao (fried dough), doujiang (soy milk), baozi (buns), or a variety of other tasty options.

From a legal standpoint, many (all?) of these mobile breakfast shops, many (all?) of which are operated by migrants from other provinces who have come from their villages and small towns to Beijing in search of new opportunities, occupy a tenuous position. Unregistered and unlicensed, these carts are part of the underground economy, operating outside of the letter of the law.

On a normal basis, such technicalities seem to make no difference, as there are carts on literally every street corner in Beijing. On occasion, though, we have witnessed cat-and-mouse games between the police and the street peddlers, with carts quickly disappearing as officers approach, only to pedal right back just minutes later.

In this particular scene, there is a blue police truck in the background. On this truck are at least four confiscated mobile breakfast stands. Outside of the frame, we observed a woman, apparently the owner of one of the carts, sitting next to a bunch of bowls, all of which contained the remnants of the food that she had prepared for sale that morning.

And so ended the breakfast-food market outside of Tianzuo Guoji. At least for one particular morning...

~Steve

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