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On reflection, I do think that the OP is (to some extent) right when we look at the pavement culture in China.|
However, I think weather plays a big part in this.
If you go to the UK in the rare event that there's a heatwave, it's like a different place. The whole place is just buzzing.
And equally, in Dalian in the winter, the streets are totally empty too. The barbecue stalls etc only come out in the summer here.
Also, the OP says that people criticise China but they shoudl note that there are lots of people buzzing around on the streets in China. But when people criticise China, they don't claim that people aren't allowed to eat their food on the street in China. They complain about the suppression of political dissidents and so on.
Other asian countries, like Thailand, have a *more* vibrant culture than China, whilst not having the same political restrictions, internet restrictions, cinema restrictions, food restrictions, etc.