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City Administrators Should Stop Targeting Newsstand-Owners: Commentator

Whether newsstands remain in business should be up to the market, not hostile authorities, a commentator says

By Xu Mouquan Updated Jan.12

With the rapid growth of the Internet and its various news offerings, newspaper sales have declined significantly in China. And it's not just news organizations that are feeling the squeeze: spare a thought for newsstand owners, who have lost significant business in recent years. To make matters worse, city administrators have long attempted to shut down newsstands, ostensibly on the grounds they obstruct traffic. Writing for the China Youth Daily, Zhou Junsheng argues newsstands are being unfairly targeted.

Zhou cites a former Shanghai newsstand owner as saying 20 years ago they might have sold 100 copies of a newspaper each day, whereas nowadays they might sell just 20 or 30 copies. Chinese newsstand owners have to make up the shortfall by selling lottery tickets, cellphone charge cards, bottled water and other goods, but this is technically outside the scope of their businesses, and city administrators regularly crack down on the practice, Zhou says. 

On the other hand, many newsstands were built years ago and the streets around them have grown large and busy. As a result, city administrator tend to target them saying they affect urban traffic. In some cases, this view causes local administrators to try to drive them out of business, Zhou says. 

Whether newsstands go out of business should be dictated by market forces, not hostile administrators, the commentator argues. It's natural that stand owners should try to stay afloat by selling other goods as newspaper sales decline, and they shouldn't be prevented from doing so. Trying to frame newsstands as affecting traffic is the result of bias against them on the part of administrators, Zhou said.