China Focus: Beijing to light up economy after dark
BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Beijing has good news for night owls as it plans to enrich their nightlife and boost consumption after dark.
The nighttime economy has become a hot topic at the ongoing annual sessions of the city's legislature and political advisory body after mayor Chen Jining said Monday in the latest government work report that Beijing will urge malls, supermarkets and convenience stores to stay open later at night.
"The nighttime economy refers to business activities between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the service sector," said Li Zhiqi, a local political advisor and vice-chairman of the Beijing Federation of Industry and Commerce.
Li added the nighttime economy can help extend business hours, better use facilities and boost employment, service industry and tourist consumption, so as to drive economic growth.
Sun Yao, deputy director with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce, said more than half of convenience stores in Beijing will run 24 hours a day in 2022.
Beijing set its economic growth target at 6 to 6.5 percent for 2019, compared with last year's target of about 6.5 percent.
The development of the nighttime economy is among the national capital's new ways of stimulating domestic consumption to drive growth amid downward pressure on the broader economy.
Compared to residents in southern and eastern coastal cities, Beijingers have fewer places to go during the late night hours. Shopping malls and supermarkets in the city usually close before 10 p.m.
"Working overtime is normal for me. I only have my own time at night," said Feng Xue who works at an accounting firm in Beijing.
Feng looks forward to more late-night restaurants and malls. "Spending on business activities after dark has gone up among people working in big cities," he said.
Beijing sees a big market for late-time spending. Big data released by Chinese ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing in 2018 showed Beijing had the biggest number of travelers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
According to statistics from food delivery platform Ele.me in 2017, Beijing ranked sixth on the list of top 10 Chinese cities in terms of late-night snack orders.
"However, the scale and convenience of the late-night economy do not match Beijing's role as a metropolis," Li said, adding that more than 60 percent of consumption of urbanites happened at night across the world.
The size of the nighttime economy in Sydney reached 4.05 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, while New York established the Office of Nightlife in the same year.
Beijing is not the first Chinese cities to light up their economy after dark.
Northern China's Hebei Province released a plan in 2017, encouraging nine major enterprises to launch sales promotion and host cultural activities in their squares between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Its neighbor Tianjin proposed to relax rules on street vending between 8 p.m. and midnight.
Wang Xiaoyu, a Beijing lawmaker and chairwoman of the Hanguang Department Store, said a new round of policies to cut taxes and reduce enterprise operating costs will be carried out by the government.
"Hopefully these policies can better stimulate people's willingness to spend at night," Wang said.
However, the nighttime economy will also bring many challenges to city management, such as nighttime public transport.
"Most subways in Beijing stop operation before 11 p.m. People worry if they stay out late in downtown areas, there would be no public transport to bring them home," Li said.
His view is echoed by Wang, who also suggested the government extend working hours of garbage clearance companies and offer subsidies for malls to stay open later and launch sales promotions at night.
Li said nighttime business activities should be extended from traditional areas featuring retail, entertainment and food to emerging fields such as sports fitness, education, cafes and bookstores.
"In this way, younger consumers will be more willing to spend. They are the major driving force of the nighttime economy," he said.