It's good to see posts like this.
I don't really have any answers, but this is the problem as I see it: there isn't really any hard-and-fast enforcement on nearly any "petty" crime. If you embezzle money or sell drugs, you may face some very severe consequences. If you sell fried potatoes on a piece of street that is off-limits, well, you never know where you stand. Some police will ticket you, but some will buy from you. You aren't sending a clear message at all.
It seems to me that the administration of the chengguan are making a typical but fatal "parenting" mistake. The idea is: make reasonable rules with reasonable punishments, and then enforce them without exception. Some parents never make rules. Then how will your child know what is acceptable and what not? Some make rules that are too strict and then feel bad about levying punishments. Then your rules mean nothing. Some make reasonable rules but either don't dictate punishments early on. Sometimes the punishment is too light and sometimes to harsh, leading to the child losing respect for you. (Not saying citizens are the children of the government - just talking about relations between authority figures and those who are expected to follow their rules.)
To me it seems that this kind of thing is happening. Sometimes the police will buy the fried potatoes, blurring the lines for the seller. The next policeman who walks up may overturn the cart, knowing that he'll be protected by the higher-ups.
I think that reasonable lawmaking supported by accountable enforcement (of the actions of both parties) would go a long way.
I'm gonna hold my breath until the government says I can have my fried potatoes!
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