Hometown Witness: In Beijing, happy, prosperous days have come back
Published: Jan 29, 2023 04:55 PM
People enjoy the Spring Festival at Qianmen Street in Beijing on January 27, 2023. Photo: IC

People enjoy the Spring Festival at Qianmen Street in Beijing on January 27, 2023. Photo: IC

Busy streets, crowded malls, and lively temple fairs. China's capital city saw its vibrancy come back during the Spring Festival holidays after emerging from a tough battle against COVID-19 in December.

Despite the glooming atmosphere that some Western media tried to paint before the Chinese Spring Festival, I saw a totally different setting: People were enjoying food, having fun and spending their year-end bonuses at boutique shops. 

It would likely be a buoyant scene for economists around the world to see the long queues outside brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton in Beijing as well as diners lining up outside restaurants - all serving as a testament to rebounding economic activities in China which will be a strong driving force for a lagging global economy. 

I heard from my friend Lao He who is a permanent Beijing resident he has rarely seen so many people choosing to stay put during the Spring Festival, as others returned to their hometown for family reunion. 

"I have not seen so many people at the Qianmen Street [a well-known shopping street in downtown Beijing] during the Spring Festival. The subways were crowded with sightseers who thronged to Beijing after the three-year pandemic subsided thanks to the government's reopening measures. All the museums were booked up early," he said.

Lao He is not the only person who observed the hot holiday atmosphere in Beijing. Searching on China's popular social media platforms like Xiaohongshu and Weibo yielded plenty of results, sharing where to have fun and tips on how to play to best savor the flavor of the Spring Festival in Beijing.

Among them, the old Summer Palace is the destination where people can go skating on the thick ice covering the lake. To appeal to the general public, the old Summer Palace put on skating shows where staff dressed in traditional costumes of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) performed on the ice. One of my friends even traveled more than 1,000 miles to bring her family to Beijing to see the performance.

In addition to those who travel hundreds of miles to Beijing to see their children, there is one group who should not be neglected - workers from all walks of life who opted to keep working during the holidays.

My personal experience during the Spring Festival holidays was that life became so convenient that take-away, express delivery and other e-commerce services were running well.

I asked a young man selling cosmetics at a shopping mall why he chose to stay in Beijing, rather than returning home. He was frank, saying he can make more money during the holidays. "My basic salary is low - about 3,000 yuan ($443) per month. But I can get triple pay during the holidays. And I can also take a cut of every order I sell. And business is very good these days," he said. "I'm happy. Our business is back. All things are now returning to normal. This is a meaningful Spring Festival," he said, smiling, with perceptible confidence in his look. 

I shared the same feeling. The uninterrupted, vibrant Spring Festival in Beijing with subsiding COVID infections nationwide made me believe that we can be confident in our wishes for 2023 - the past happy and prosperous days have come back.