Chinese people embrace 2023 with hope, confidence and strength
Published: Jan 01, 2023 04:44 PM
Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

"So unlike yesterday, now's the time for us to say Happy new year." Shanghai-based Vicky Li shared the song "Happy New Year" by Swedish group ABBA in a friends' group on WeChat in the early morning of the new year.

Having gone through a two-month-long lockdown last year and just having recovered from COVID-19, she can't wait to get started to plan a family trip to Sanya, China's premier beach destination.

"Change is ahead," she said.

Li isn't alone in feeling hopeful about 2023. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people that have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for the past three years share the optimism. For many, life has changed, but what remains unchanged is hope.

On the last day of 2022 to the morning of the first day of 2023, WeChat moments were flooded with messages bidding farewell to 2022 and welcoming the new year. Wishes for happiness and good health dominated the messaging. And thanks to the recently relaxed anti-virus measures, many Chinese people traveled to desired destinations to welcome the New Year, and many cities held celebratory activities.

Thousands gathered in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province on Saturday night to count down to the start of 2023. In Shanghai, many thronged the historic riverside walkway, the Bund. In a walking street in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, large crowds of people watched the fireworks, a scene having not occurred in three years. A string of countdown activities was held in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to ring in the year of 2023. Here in Beijing, with the first ray of sunshine in the New Year, the national anthem sounded through Tian'anmen Square, and the five-star red flag rose together with the sun.

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Brand new life

China is planning to reopen its border and resume issuing tourist and business visas to its citizens. Air travel is expected to return to 2019 levels in the first half of 2023, according to Topsperity Securities. An online survey shows that Thailand and Japan are the top two overseas destinations for Chinese travelers.

Increased mobility in Chinese cities during the three-day New Year's Day holidays has already suggests the recovery has begun. A report from CITIC Securities noted that transportation and travel in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Chengdu, among other cities, have begun to recover in the past week.

Hong Kong society is rolling up its sleeves for the reopening of border with the mainland. According to Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan Kwok-ki, the Hong Kong SAR government is in close contact with the central government and local governments in Guangdong Province, striving to implement the first phase of border reopening as early as January 8.

Starting from January 1, Macao private car owners can enter Guangdong through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Zhuhai Port, a policy that aims to enhance people-to-people exchanges between Macao and Guangdong and promote socio-economic development of the two neighboring places.

The Xinhua News Agency cited Robin Xing, chief China economist with Morgan Stanley, saying that activities such as travel are expected to return to levels seen before Omicron hit in early 2022 in March this year, and the recovery is expected to accelerate, with the seasonally adjusted annual rate of GDP growing at 8 percent from the second quarter to the second half.

"2022 was tough for every Chinese. We should feel proud that we went through it," Meng Ying, a Shenzhen-based white-collar worker, told the Global Times. "What does not kill you makes you stronger. I believe the Chinese people and the country will be stronger in 2023."

Zhang Tengjun, deputy director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the year of 2022 was turbulent due to the sporadic outbreaks, challenges from abroad, and the sluggish economy.

"But China remained stable and smooth in the end, which projected confidence to the Chinese people and offered hope for a better 2023," said Zhang.

Zhang described the year from 2022 to 2023 as "out of the depth of misfortune comes bliss."

"Despite the hardships and challenges, we see the tenacity and unity of the Chinese people to solve their own problems. This is our biggest gain in 2022," he said.

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Big events await

For the Chinese people, 2023 is fresh because they are going to embrace brand new life. For the country, it is the first year since the successful conclusion of 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which laid out the development path for China in the next decade.

It will also be an all-round year for China's global governance, neighboring diplomacy, leadership diplomacy, people-to-people diplomacy and party diplomacy, said Xu Liang, an associate professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing International Studies University.

The change of Party and government offices will be completed after the two sessions, which are to be held in March this year. It remains to be seen what domestic policies and diplomacy the new leadership will carry out.

A series of major events are also on the 2023 calendar. The Hangzhou Asian Games, which were supposed to be held in September 2022 but suspended due to the pandemic, will be held in September this year.

China will conduct its fifth national economic census in 2023 to take stock of its economic and social development.

Meanwhile, 2023 will mark the 45th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up policy, as well as the 10th anniversary of the proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative. China is considering hosting the third Belt and Road forum for international cooperation.

In a signed article on Monday, former foreign minister Wang Yi, who has just been appointed as director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, said that China's diplomacy will engage in actively expanding global partnerships based on equality, openness and cooperation.

Zhang believes that 2023 will see Chinese diplomacy in full swing, as the international situation China faces will become more severe.

"China will encounter challenges as the US will continue its containment strategy on China, which will also make the situation around China's neighboring areas complicated. China will wisely manage its ties with the US, Russia and Europe. As China opens and re-engages with the world, it will make decoupling and bloc confrontations advocated by countries like the US more difficult, which is a positive factor. China will have more confidence to serve as an engine for global economic recovery and contribute Chinese wisdom to global governance," said Zhang.