Chongqing- A month before the annual week-long National Day holiday, my brother and I had already been planning on a visit to the capital city of Beijing. It was the first time for both of us, and we got so excited about the trip that we would facetime each other almost every night to discuss the specifics.
As it turned out, we were not the only ones trying to book a ticket to Beijing; millions of other equally energized people were also waiting in line for this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity, considering how this year’s National Day concurs with the Mid-Autumn Festival and how this is the first long holiday since the domestic COVID-19 situation was largely brought under control.
The official statistics released Friday by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism confirmed my preliminary assumption. “Tourist attractions across China received a total of 637 million visits, 79% of its pre-pandemic level, during the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday from October 1 to 8” This figure is much higher than the previous estimation of 550 million domestic trips by China’s official tourism research institute only days before the holiday kicked off.
As reported by state-run Xinhua News Agency, China saw a total of 13.26 million domestic air trips from October 1 to 8, with the daily passenger trips reaching 91.07% of its pre-pandemic level. A total of 126.87 million railway trips during the 11-day travel rush beginning September 28, with the daily passenger trips exceeding 11 million for nine consecutive days.
On October 1, The New York Times published an article titled “China’s Golden Week Kicks Off in Boost to Battered Tourism Industry,” in which the author praised the Chinese government’s effective anti-epidemic measures and its people’s courageous endeavor to fight the virus as one.
She also expressed admiration for the loosening of travel restrictions by saying, “the weeklong holiday is a closely watched barometer of the country’s economic health … offering the clearest yet of China’s recovery from the pandemic as people squeeze into train cars, crowd into ancient temples, and do everything else that people in many other countries can still only dream of.”
Indeed, As the first in the world to adopt perhaps the earliest and strictest anti-epidemic measures and also the first major economy to bring the virus largely under control, the Chinese Mainland has not reported any locally transmitted symptomatic cases since August 15, with only a few occasional imported cases from other countries and regions. While the rest of the world is still struggling to defeat the virus within their borders, with the United States reporting the highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths, followed by India, Brazil, and Russia.
According to the State Taxation Administration, China’s consumer market exhibited a robust recovering momentum during the Golden Week holiday, citing a 14.1% year-on-year growth of average daily sales in retail and wholesale sectors and a 12.7% year-on-year increase of average daily sales in catering and accommodation sectors.
China’s film market also saw a resilient rebound from the pandemic as its box office revenues totaled at 3.95 billion yuan ($583 million) during the Golden Week holiday even with the 75% cap on maximum moviegoers inside a theater, far exceeding market expectations and the comparative figures in 2017 and 2018, which stood at 2.41 billion and 1.91 billion, respectively.
“The huge consumption potential during the Golden Week will not only accelerate the recovery of China’s domestic economy but also drive imports and investment from other countries … in the meantime, offering a strong boost to global trade and the world economy,” says an editorial from Xinhua Thursday.
According to a semiannual global economic prospects report recently published by the U.S.-based think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), the Chinese economy is on track to grow by 3% this year, up from the 1.5% growth projection in April, with the global output expected to shrink 4.4% due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Subject to the global recession gloom are the U.S. economies, the Euro area, the U.K., Japan, and India, which are expected to see a contraction of 3.8%, 8%, 11%, 8.5%, and 8%, respectively.
The study was led by Karen Dynan, a nonresident senior fellow at PIIE and a Harvard professor who also served as chief economist at the U.S. Treasury Department. She noted that China’s recovery is sustainable and vigorous, “it stands out as an economy that is going to outperform other economies over the next year and a half.”
Dynan’s prediction of China’s leading global economic recovery isn’t the only cheerful voice out there. Last Monday, the World Bank adjusted China’s economic growth outlook to 2%, up from the 1% growth projection in June, in its latest October 2020 Economic Update for East Asia and the Pacific report, with the rest of the region projected to contract by 3.5%, making China the only major economy in the world expected to see a positive growth rate in 2020.
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