Xie Yiyi, 22, lost her job last Friday, making her one of millions of young people in China left unmoored and shaken by the virus. So that same day, heeding the advice of one of China’s top leaders, she decided to open a barbecue stall.
Street vendors are seen by many Chinese as embarrassing eyesores from the country’s past, when it was emerging from extreme poverty. In many Chinese cities, uniformed neighborhood rule enforcers called chengguan regularly evict and assault sidewalk sellers of fake jewelry, cheap clothes and spicy snacks.
But Li Keqiang, China’s premier, has publicly called for the jobless to ignite a “stall economy” to get the derailed economy back on track. In the process, he laid bare China’s diverging narratives after the epidemic. Is China an increasingly middle-class country, represented by the skyscrapers and tech campuses in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen? Or is much of it still