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By Flynn Murphy  / Dec 06, 2019 04:40 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

In China, it often feels like you can't buy a bowl of noodles without being offered a restaurant membership running to thousands of yuan. 

Large upfront payments which offer discounts or just simple access to services are seen everywhere, from high-end fitness centers to local shoe repair shops. But so too is the phenomenon of startups going up in smoke — and operators disappearing with the money people have already paid.

Now, Beijing’s city authorities are talking about tackling the problem. But some of the proposals they released late last month in a suite of draft consultation papers have raised eyebrows. 

One, dubbed the “3-month rule,” would ban fitness centers from selling memberships which tie people into contracts longer than 3 months, or with a value of more than 3,000 yuan ($425).

And laws made in Beijing often shape those in other jurisdictions. 

Caixin talked to local business owners, as well as some of the victims of defunct startups, to get their take. 

See the full story on Caixin Global later today. 

Contact reporter Flynn Murphy (

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