China’s ‘revenge consumption’ in Golden Week signals strong recovery

By Ma Jingjing and Cao Siqi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/8 21:18:40 Last Updated: 2020/10/8 22:09:59

As the eight-day National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holidays conclude, vacationing Chinese return to the cities where they work and live. Some 197,000 passengers arrived at Beijing West Railway Station on Wednesday, one of the capital's major stations, and 209,000 were expected to arrive there on Thursday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

China's tourism sector witnessed a strong recovery in the Golden Week holidays despite strict national COVID-19 prevention measures such as crowd caps and obligatory reservations, sending the clearest signal that the Chinese economy is swiftly recovering from the global pandemic, with its GDP growth forecast to achieve 6 percent in the third quarter of the year.

During the combined eight-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday season from October 1 to 8, China recorded 637 million domestic tourists, generating total revenue of 467 billion yuan ($68.79 billion), according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Hot tourist destinations such as Beijing and Central China's Hubei Province saw visitors crowd a multitude of scenic spots. From October 1 to 7, the number of tourists visiting major scenic spots in Beijing posted a recovery of 99.7 percent year-on-year, and total revenue soared 63.1 percent year-on-year, reflecting the trend of consumption upgrade, local data showed.

During the holidays, Hubei - the province hit hardest during the outbreak -received 52.28 million trips and generate revenue of 34.8 billion yuan, a recovery of 82.74 percent and 72.26 percent year-on-year, People's Daily reported Thursday. 

On Thursday, China's state railway operator said it expects to handle 13 million passengers on the last day of the holidays. It is the eighth consecutive day that railway passenger volume has exceeded 10 million. 

Robust recovery of the domestic tourism sector has greatly stimulated consumption. 

Major retailers and catering companies across the country posted combined sales revenues of 1.6 trillion yuan during the holiday season, with daily revenue up 4.9 percent year-on-year, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed.

Box-office revenue for the Chinese mainland during the holidays was the second-highest in the Chinese film history, with revenue of 3.69 billion yuan from October 1 to 7.

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Strong economic recovery

The data is sending a clear signal that domestic consumption, which had been constrained by the coronavirus outbreak, has been arguably fully unleashed and the resilient Chinese economy is swiftly recovering from the global pandemic, experts said.

"The 'revenge' rebound in consumption reflects that China's economy has almost completely recovered from the [effect of the] global pandemic," Yu Miaojie, deputy dean with the National School of Development at Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Yu projected that the country's GDP growth rate may reach 6 percent in the third and fourth quarter of 2020, with annual growth forecast to be around 2.5 percent.

Hua Changchun, chief economist at Guotai Junan Securities, told the Global Times on Thursday that consumption will become the main driver of China's economic recovery in the fourth quarter and the first half of 2021. 

"Shifting from economic growth mainly driven by government-led infrastructure investment to market-oriented consumption, the new mode will help the Chinese economy with sustainable and high-quality development," he said.

Despite shocks brought on by the COVID-19 in the first half of the year, China's consumption market has steadily improved. The country's total retail sales grew 0.5 percent year-on-year in August, returning to the expansion territory for the first time this year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

"China's per capita GDP exceeded $10,000 for the first time in 2019. The upper-middle income level means domestic consumption will gradually upgrade, which indicates promising consumption prospects," Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Tapping into a predominant, un-ignorable market force at home, China has moved to strengthen the domestic economy, dubbed as "internal circulation" to fully realize its considerable consumption potential.

Yu said that China is expected to be the only major economy to report positive economic growth this year and it will continue to serve as the locomotive of the world economy and contribute to the recovery of neighboring countries and regions as well as major trade partners like ASEAN and the EU.

Major test

Chinese people may be familiar with the crowds in scenic spots during the previous Golden Weeks, but this year they were especially crowded. "I regret this! I wanna go back home!" such a joke could be heard in many renowned tourist attractions as visitors seemed to have underestimated the size of the Chinese tourists and their enthusiasm. 

Many "thoughtful" local governments such as Chongqing Municipality, an online celebrity city which welcomed large numbers of visitors, even sent a message to local residents, suggesting them not to go to scenic spots and cause more congestion, and to save the space for travelers coming to the metropolitan.  

However, many netizens exclaimed that though jammed in the middle of bustling tourists, they still felt happy. On China's Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo, many posted pictures of being stuck on their way back home or in downtown, under which the hottest comment reads "we should be content with it. To many other countries, traffic jam is probably the happiness that they want but cannot have right now." 

Many described their National Day holidays as a belated Spring Festival which offered them a chance to reunite with their family and make up for the regrets caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Some shared exquisite pictures of food and scenery, saying that the huge crowds make them more confident in their country's capability of protecting its people and governance in dealing with the crisis. 

"Right now, China is the only country in the world that has 'two confidences'. That is, the country is confident that huge crowds of tourists would not lead to new outbreak of the disease, and the people are confident that they will not be infected with the coronavirus even when they go to the most crowded destinations," read a widely circulated online article. 

The crowds also shocked Western media with many mainstream newspapers marveling at scenes that CNN said "would have been unthinkable just months ago." An article published by The New York Times said Chinese people "do everything else that people in many other countries can still only dream of" and early signs have already confirmed China has returned to near normalcy with remarkable speed. Bloomberg said in headline that "Half a billion travelers show China's economy moving past COVID." 

Many foreign netizens hailed China's governance capacity and responsiveness to the needs of the people to stamp out the virus. 

Some said on Twitter that respecting science, wearing masks and washing hands frequently are the foundation of China's miracle. "One billion Chinese can do it, why can't you?" they asked. 

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