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In Taiwan, even the street food vendors elect their own president



Every evening, shortly after the kids get out of school, vendors start pushing their carts laden with raw ingredients, cooking apparatus, oil and other paraphernalia to the Ningxia Night Market at the intersection of Ningxia and Chongqing streets in Taipei.

Many of the dishes on offer – crispy squid, oyster omelet, braised pork and papaya milkshakes – are quintessentially Taiwanese street foods whose recipes have been handed down through families for several generations.

“I didn’t want to take it over at first,” stallholder Lin Chiu-yun said of the 70-year-old savory pancake business that was handed down by her father. “It turns day into night, and other people can go away on vacation on public holidays, but we can’t.”

“Then my father suddenly got sick, and I started running into regular customers around the night market, because we live nearby,” she said. “They were asking me when I was going to come out and start running things.”

“So I bit the bullet,” she said, adding that the stall could even get handed down to her daughter Minhsuan, who currently helps out.

Around 60% of the market’s custom comes from local residents, with the rest from overseas tourists, including plenty of visitors from Hong Kong.

It’s big business, as well as a generations-old purveyor of the island’s street culture, according to its democratically elected president. 

Market association president Lin Ting-kuo told RFA Cantonese that the market’s popularity among local people is a key reason for its healthy rebound after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

“When something happens internationally, or there’s a pandemic, it’s the local tourists who help you to survive,” he said.

A top tourist attraction

A recent survey by Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau found that the island’s night markets have long been the top attraction for tourists, with 80% of inbound tourists visiting a night market during their trip before 2019.

A Spanish tourist who gave only the name Gertruda said she was enjoying herself on a recent trip to Ningxia Night Market.

“You can get delicious food, and great drinks, so it’s a great place,” she said.

The Ningxia Night Market in Taipei has a reputation for quintessential Taiwanese street food. Credit: RFA

But the locals love them too. And the Ningxia Night Market has been a fixture of the city’s Datong district since the now-democratic island was under Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.

“It’s pretty good value for money and there are very diverse foods,” said a Taiwanese customer at Ningxia in a recent interview. 

Lin Ting-kuo puts that down to the fact that vendors are constantly experimenting with new recipes, to cater to changing tastes.

“There are a lot of innovative products there alongside the traditional ones,” he said. “For example, one nightclub has a stall set up in the night market to offer [cocktails].”

“The owner of this stall is very old, and is a third generation stallholder, who used to sell braised pork with rice,” he said.

There are also online discount coupons, mobile phone payments and games to promote the market, in addition to the online banquet-booking service, he said.

One of the most popular options is the Chitose Banquet, which offers a taster selection of vendor snacks and offerings all in one place.

There is clearly a huge amount of political investment in making it work, at the local level, according to the YesAsia tourism website.

“In addition to mouth-watering snacks and delicacies, the night market also has a strong human touch, and many local stories and cultural spirits are included,” reads the Ningxia Night Market listing.

Promoting ‘neighborhood harmony’

True to the country’s democratic way of life, vendors elect their own president to represent them, and a finance committee keeps the books in order, as well as making the market’s dealings transparent.

The market association also works with local government officials “to promote neighborhood harmony,” the listing says.

“When the night market is closely integrated with the emotions of local culture, the image and taste of each stall become fun and interesting cultural stories that are constantly being told,” it says.

The Ningxia Night Market started out as a ring of shabby vendor stalls in the middle of an intersection, which the displaced Kuomintang-ruled Republic of China government started regulating in around 1954.

By 1973, the Taipei city government had relocated the vendors’ stalls to their current location, where the Ningxia Night Market began to flourish.

By 2000, it had transitioned into an environmentally friendly operation.

“The Ningxia Night Market once failed to do a good job of protecting the environment, which was unacceptable to the residents of the community,” Lin Ting-kuo said. “We came up with a … renovation project in which we banned disposable tableware to reduce garbage.”

“The next stage was even more drastic – we banned melamine tableware,” he said. “Then, we filtered waste oil and gray water from the stalls before discharging clean water into the city’s sewer system.”

“We hire a professional grease removal company every week, too,” Lin said.

Diners can book “banquets” online to sample a large array of the different dishes and snacks offered by vendors at a single table, including a “Thousand Years Banquet”, “State Banquet at the Presidential Palace,” while environmentally friendly and calorie-labeled banquets are also on offer, the site said.

There are several common seating and stand-and-eat areas, with power and water supplied to vendors, leaving the site clean and filled with the aromas of cooking, rather than less desirable smells.

“In the past, we had to get a big tub of water and push it over here in a cart,” Lin…

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The Latest Updates on China’s Visa-Free Policies



China has fully reopened its borders, allowing international tourism to recover. Visa-free travel policies are reinstated, and visa fees for foreign travelers will be reduced by 25% from December 11, 2023, to December 31, 2024. China and Singapore are also pursuing a 30-day visa-free travel arrangement.

China has fully reopened its borders, promising recovery of international tourism and travel. Many of the visa-free travel policies that were in place prior to the pandemic have therefore come back into effect, enabling people from a wide range of countries to visit

UPDATE (December 8, 2023): On December 8, 2023, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the Notice on Temporary Reduction of Fees for Applying Visa to China. According to this notice, during the period from December 11, 2023, to December 31, 2024, China shall cut visa fees by 25 percent across the board for foreign travelers. For more details, please consult with your local Chinese embassy or consulate.

UPDATE (December 7, 2023): China and Singapore are seeking to establish a mutual 30-day visa-free travel arrangement to boost people exchanges between the two countries, according to Reuters. At the time of writing, no further details have been released regarding the timeline or the eligibility, requirement, and application procedures of this new arrangement. Click here for more information regarding this mutual 30-day visa-free travel between China and Singapore. 

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at

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Analysis of UK Investments in China for 2023: Evaluating Deals, Values, M&A, and Investments



British Government underwent reshuffle with pro-China David Cameron as Foreign Minister. Possible mild rapprochement with Beijing. Analysis of UK investments in China this year reveals potential trends. Report includes unique Q1-Q3 data and predicts outlook for 2024.

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis & Henry Tillman   

With a reshuffle in the British Government and ex-Prime Minister – and generally pro-China politician David Cameron now as the UK’s Foreign Minister, there have been early signs of a potential mild rapprochement in the British governments overall attitude towards Beijing.

But before people get carried away, we can look at what investments the UK has made into China this year – as investments made while anti-China politics have tended to be the norm are typically indicative of stronger trends. In this report I include unique data that has not previously been made public, and examine the Q1-Q3 investment trends to see what may lie ahead for 2024.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at

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Ratings agency cuts China’s credit outlook



Financially strapped local governments and state-owned enterprises pose a risk to China’s future economic growth, the ratings agency Moody’s said today in a report downgrading the country’s credit outlook from stable to negative.

Growing evidence suggests that the central government will be required to shore up the debt-laden entities, creating “broad downside risks to China’s fiscal, economic and institutional strength,” Moody’s said.

Local governments are thought to have accumulated trillions of dollars of debt due to spending during the COVID pandemic and a loss of income due to a troubled real estate market.

Despite the challenges, Moody’s maintained China’s overall credit rating of A1, which it describes as low-risk though not the safest category of investment. Moody’s said the rating reflects its belief in the country’s “financial and institutional resources to manage the transition in an orderly fashion.”

“Its economy’s vast size and robust, albeit slowing, potential growth rate, support its high shock absorption capacity,” Moody’s said. 

Even so, the outlook downgrade signals some concern about China’s future creditworthiness.

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was disappointed in the ratings change and that Moody’s concerns about its growth and financial stability were “unnecessary.” 

In recent years, through the continuous efforts of relevant departments and local governments, China has established a system to prevent and resolve the risks of local government debt,” the ministry said. “The trend of disorderly and illegal borrowing by local governments has been initially curbed, and positive results have been achieved in the disposal of local government debt.”

An employee works at a steel plant in Huaian, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, Dec. 3, 2023. (AFP)

Moody’s projects China’s annual growth rate will be 4% in 2024 and 2025 but average 3.8% from 2026 to 2030, at which time it might drop again to 3.5%. 

Derek Scissors, the chief economist at China Beige Book, a firm that analyzes China’s economy for investors, said in an email that the downgrade was to be expected.

“It’s a recognition of long-standing conditions, not a new development,” said Scissors, who is also a senior fellow at the free-market think tank American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “I think growth will be faster than Moody’s thinks in 2024 and decelerate more than they think after that.”

Fees from local land sales account for nearly 40% of the revenue to local and regional governments. But China’s real-estate sector has been hit hard by overbuilding. One giant, Evergrande, defaulted under massive debt last year, triggering a broader real estate crisis.

Moody’s report said that “the downsizing of the property sector is a major structural shift in China’s growth drivers which is ongoing and could represent a more significant drag to China’s overall economic growth rate than currently assessed.”

Edited by Tara McKelvey

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