Saturday, December 1, 2007

Morning Market

A Chinese friend and I are working on a project to explore what the concept of "individual enterprise" means to the actual individuals involved.

The idea is: with all the talk about how market economy is the force behind China's rise, what's going on on the ground at Chinese markets? We're conducting interviews with two groups: older 老百姓 that now run the markets the government used to run (selling rice, meat, small consumer goods) and younger, more progressive "small business owners" that have opened markets that were unavailable before opening and reform (fashion/apparel, imported goods, high-tech stuff). At the moment we're not looking at the suppliers (farmers or tech-firms), just the distributors, the men and women that are out in the marketplace every day selling stuff to make a living.

Yesterday, I woke up at 5:15 am and took the earliest, coldest bus ride I've taken in my life to meet my friend at a morning market. However cold and tired I was, my discomfort was quickly put into perspective; the stall-owners here get up at 4:30 and bicycle to work in the freezing cold, and whereas I came to walk around, make chit-chat and ask questions, they have hundreds of pounds of raw meat that need butchering, or two thousands newspaper-sections that need to be assembled before sale.

The interviewing was only mildly successful at best... most of the people we approached were either to busy or too suspicious of two guys walking around with cameras asking questions.

But we made contact, at least, and will go back in future sessions to hopefully get more in-depth talks going. One young butcher (about my age) said he'd be willing to meet us after the market closed someday and talk, and a lady that sells sweatpants was pretty open to the idea of being interviewed.

On the other front, I'm using my role as MC at the giant shopping plaza to make good connections with small shop owners, and hopefully will be lining up some interviews there next week.

Yay for cool projects!

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