Stalling for time

Hello again from Beijing–I’m here for another few days before my train to Sichuan to start interning with Wokai.  I hope to start using this blog to post observations about rural Sichuan, but until then I plan to stall for time with more random observations about Beijing.

Every once in a while one stumbles across a stretch of sidewalk in Beijing that is completely covered with small white stickers with the characters “刻章办证”, followed by a phone number.  The stickers advertise a service that illegally manufactures fake receipts for purchases, which many people can turn into their employers in order to be reimbursed for business expenses.  For the first several months I lived in Beijing last year I would come across the stickers but have no idea where the stickers came from.  Only by chance was I once lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the source of these stickers.  The organization that prints the receipts hires young children to distribute them.  I once saw one such young boy shuffling briskly down a sidewalk in the Haidian district, protectively cradling a stack of the stickers under the crook of one arm.  Every few steps he would tear the backing off the sticker, bend to one knee, and slap the sticker on the ground, all in one fluid motion without breaking his stride. Far more visible are their government-hired adversaries, who roam the sidewalks with a metal scraping tool and a squeeze bottle of some liquid meant to dissolve the adhesive.  There is, in fact, a pitched battle constantly being waged on the streets of Beijing for the right to advertise this illegal service, one which may never resolve but which at least creates quite a number of low-paying jobs.

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