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China wants its 12 million delivery drivers to work for the party

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www.rfa.org/english/news/china/delivery-drivers-06132024152806.html

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The Communist Party will be asking them to keep an eye on things in exchange for food and drink at rest stations.

Chinese takeout diners could soon be getting their food delivered with a side of political ideology.

China is calling on its army of 12 million food delivery drivers to start showing more obedience and loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, as well as acting as the government’s eye and ears on the ground.

The party will step up ideological work with the drivers, and enlist those who are already party members as part-time “supervisors” of the communities they serve, while wooing them with local rest stations aimed at making their lives easier, according to official documents published this week.

“We will hire a group of online delivery personnel with a strong sense of responsibility to serve as part-time social supervisors and encourage them to take part in grassroots governance through snapshots and snap reports, and promptly upload details of any safety issues or hidden dangers found in food, drugs, products, special equipment, etc. as part of their daily work,” according to a June 11 directive posted to the website of the State Administration for Market Regulation in Beijing.

The document also calls on local party organizations to work with riders to boost their love, loyalty and obedience towards the Chinese Communist Party, ensuring that they “follow the party.”

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In return, it wants neighborhood and residential committees and local businesses to offer them air-conditioned rest stations and canteens where they can get food and drink, recharge their phones and even get access to healthcare and medications.

The news prompted quips on social media that the riders would be better off following their satellite navigation systems.

Others said gig economy workers are now being recruited as unofficial “grid workers,” in a reference to a nationwide neighborhood surveillance and “stability maintenance” operation being rolled out nationwide under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

www.rfa.org/english/news/china/police-grid-11142023123319.html

The grid management system is so named because it carves up neighborhoods into a grid with 15-20 households per square, and gives each grid a dedicated monitor who reports back on residents’ affairs to neighborhood committees, the lowest rung in the government hierarchy.

www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-setting-up-grid-system-to-monitor-ordinary-people-04102018121018.html

“Delivery workers may be low-level personnel, but if they are given the function of detecting and snooping on users, they will immediately become detectives,” one user commented.

Bottom of the ladder

Delivery riders interviewed by RFA affiliate WhyNot in 2020 said they scrambled to make any kind of living from food deliveries. They said they felt as if they were at the very bottom of the social pecking order when faced with aggressive residential security guards and tardy customer pickups, while numerous deductions left them earning just a few yuan per run.

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Now, delivery workers at three new government-backed canteens in Zhongshan’s Getang Dajie are being offered discounts of up to 20% on meals, the document said, in a bid to woo a group that comprises mostly young people who are often highly educated and dissatisfied with their lot in life.

www.rfa.org/english/news/china/graduates-picky-jobs-03212023142909.html

Chen Li-fu, president of the Taiwan Professors Association, said the economic downturn has meant that many young people are forced into gig economy jobs like food delivery, and that they’re now a “blind spot” on the government’s radar.

“Every month, big companies and even banks are closing down,” Chen said. “It’s not impossible for so many former employees to find other jobs because the entire economy is performing badly.”

“A lot of them are going into the food delivery business, making it a new sector that the Communist Party has to supervise.”

Lee Cheng-hsiu, an associate researcher at Taiwan’s National Policy Foundation, said the move to include delivery riders in the party machine also reflects deep-running anxieties about social unrest.

“A lot of people have been laid off or are unemployed because the economy is so bad, and graduates can’t find jobs,” Lee said. “They’re trying to prevent public resentment from building up, or even trigger another event like the white paper movement [of 2022].”

AC

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