China’s unemployed turn to selling car boots as COVID-hit economy stalls

BEIJING (Reuters) – Wang Wei, whose travel agency has been forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, put his 80,000 yuan ($11,785) savings into a green Suzuki microvan. Poured into selling coffee from the backseat. Beijing, the capital of China.

Since June, Wang has been driving mobile coffee booths from car trunk fairs to car boot fairs, serving handcrafted coffees steeped in a variety of liqueurs.

Street peddling, once considered too low status for many, is a new way for people who have lost their jobs or closed businesses to earn a living and avoid China’s relentless anti-COVID policies. It was revived because we are looking for a way.

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Hospitality, tourism and after-school tutoring have been hit particularly hard.

Wang, 40, gave up his brick-and-mortar coffee shop in Tianjin in 2020 when the pandemic first hit. The overseas group tour he was hosting was also hit that year, with lucrative trips to see the northern lights canceled and hundreds of thousands of yuan in lost income.

The spread of Omicron variants across China this year has made group tours of China’s backcountry impossible.

After car boot fairs in southern metropolises such as Chengdu, Chongqing and Guangzhou, Mr. Wang started running mobile coffee booths this summer.

Under the canopy that extends from the king’s van, customers relax in camping chairs and in the evening the soft light completes the glamping experience.

“The growing popularity of this car boot sale market has helped me through the toughest times,” Wang said.

unemployed youth

China’s economy grew little from April to June. Youth unemployment remains high, reaching 19.9% ​​in July, his fourth month of breaking more

Pan, 25, closed a bar in Shenzhen after COVID broke out in March, leaving him more than 100,000 yuan in debt.

“I was pretty depressed and one night my fiancé, Annie, tried to cheer me up and took me to a watering hole in a quiet area with warm, dim lights and soft music.” he said.

Then I saw a couple selling alcohol at an outdoor stall and decided to do the same. It was because of Tesla.

“A close friend lent us 3,000 yuan, which was our initial investment in a pop-up liquor store,” Pan said.

Pan and Annie ran out of money in the first week, but their determination paid off and since then their daily earnings have risen to RMB 7,800.

“In the future, I plan to travel around the country with Tesla and sell liquor from the trunk of my car in my favorite city,” Pang said.


Policy makers have encouraged “flexible” employment in the informal economy because it is hard to come by tacit jobs.

Even Beijing, which has long viewed a makeshift market beneath the capital, has turned a blind eye to the sale of car trunks.

Liu, 30, made a living teaching Beijing children how to solve the Rubik’s Cube, but after in-person learning was halted due to COVID-19, she was left “break-even.” became.

She now sells coffee in the back of a small van and hopes a small business can get her out of financial trouble.

“We are still losing money at this stage. Most of the time I get less than 100 yuan a day, not enough for food and transportation,” she said. “But I’m happy just to be occupied.”

($1 = 6.7879 Chinese Yuan)

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Reporting by Ella Kao and Ryan Wu. Edited by Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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