The average wage slave in Shanghai may find it harder than ever to get a job or pay the rent, but when it comes to cheap grub, the Communist party is there for them.
Almost 200 eateries in the posh Jing'an district of Shanghai – ranging from upmarket restaurants and five-star hotels to even convenience stores – have begun offering discounted lunches for office workers. Another Shanghai district is even treating stressed-out salarymen to free afternoon teas. It seems Mao Zedong's "iron rice bowl" (guaranteed lifetime employment) has morphed into more of an iron tea cup.
The Jing'an government gives the impression that high-end eateries are clamoring to be included in the lunch program. Maybe they are: these are hard times for top-end dining spots, since Beijing decreed a new era of abstemiousness.
But they are hardly going to be able to use income from the lunches, which are mostly sold at or below cost, to make up for the money they have lost on government galas; 200 wage slaves might generate only as much lunch revenue as a single table of government revelers of yore. It is doubtless smart politics to give the government what it wants in the matter of white-collar nutrition. But it can only be smart economics if the typist who spends Rmb15 ($2.45) for a mostly mediocre lunch is willing to come back and spent Rmb150 at the same restaurant for dinner.