Shanghai’s Last Newspaper Stand to Close by End of the Year

Key community spaces in 20th century China, newsstands are now disappearing all over the country

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4:35 PM HKT, Thu June 13, 2024 1 mins read

Tucked away on Wusong Road in Hongkou District sits a relic of 20th-century Shanghai life: the city’s last remaining newspaper stand. Operated by proprietor Jiang Jun, this modest 12-square-meter space has served as a nostalgic touchstone for over three decades. However, the newsstand is now set to close at the end of the year.

Emerging in China at the beginning of the last century, newspaper stands operated under government oversight. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, they were incorporated into post offices, improving distribution services. In those years, newsstands played a key social role, offering citizens a place to subscribe to and collect their daily newspapers, fostering a sense of community through casual conversation.

Jiang Jun’s newsstand next to a post office. Image via WeChat.

The decline of newspaper stands in Shanghai reflects broader trends across China. Wuhan, too, is bidding farewell to its last newsstand, owned by an elderly couple and located on 111 Taipei Road. A short documentary by a film student on their newsstand gained traction on Xiaohongshu, highlighting the cultural significance of these humble stalls and the people who run them.

Factors contributing to the demise of newspaper stands are manifold, with the shift towards digital reading habits playing a pivotal role. Between 2008 and 2020, over 20,000 stands were dismantled due to the waning popularity of print media. Additionally, many stand owners have converted their spaces into snack and beverage stalls to increase profits, prompting city administrators to intervene, citing violations of municipal regulations.

The impending closure of Shanghai’s last stand has evoked a sense of nostalgia and loss among residents. Jiang’s three decades of service in some ways represent a microcosm of China’s recent economy history, moving from the dynamism of the 80s and 90s to today’s shift to an ageing society. Rising at 6 AM each day, Jiang sacrificed family time to nurture this communal gathering spot. Yet, with age catching up and no successor in sight, Jiang faces the inevitable decision to close shop. By the end of 2024, at the age of 63, Jiang will surpass China’s mandated retirement age by over three years. For the time being, people of all ages are flocking to the newspaper stand to bid farewell to this piece of cultural history, pondering what spaces might serve as community hubs in the future. Only time will unveil the answer.

Banner image via Xiaohongshu.

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