During Spring Festival, Wuhan is a clear sign that China remains a hot land for investment
Published: Feb 17, 2024 06:33 PM
Visitors view lanterns at the Garden Expo Park in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on Feb 11, 2024. Photo: VCG

Visitors view lanterns at the Garden Expo Park in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on Feb 11, 2024. Photo: VCG

If you want to pick a Chinese city as a window to observe China's development in the past few years, Wuhan is undoubtedly one of the best choices. It has one of the fastest GDP growth rates in China in the post-pandemic era. Just before the Spring Festival of the Year of the Dragon, this city, known as the "thoroughfare of nine provinces," saw people from the south and north briefly stranded here because of extreme rain and snow. 

But when the ice and snow melt, the city quickly returns to prosperity, and people move on, toward happiness and reunion.

In China, the first day of Spring Festival is traditionally a time to visit relatives and friends, but in a shopping mall in Wuhan, which claims to be the largest mall in Asia, it was apparent that going out and spending has become a new trend. By 4 pm, almost every restaurant in the mall is lined with customers waiting to have dinner. And eating out instead of cooking at home has become a new way for people to continue Spring Festival celebrations. At the same time, in the mall, many Chinese new energy vehicle brands stores welcomed an endless stream of potential customers. The Spring Festival is a time of reunion, and also a good time to plan the New Year's family spending on big-ticket items. Many families visited the mall to experience new energy vehicles, to prepare for a low-carbon upgrade.

But the most vibrant scenes are in the city's landmark tourist attractions and large cultural venues such as cinemas. At the Yellow Crane Tower, one of Wuhan's most famous tourist attractions, the scenic area was so crowded that it was almost impossible to move, with nearly 50,000 visitors from all over the country arriving daily during the first three days of the Spring Festival. And in the cinemas of major shopping malls, I found that almost every movie during the Spring Festival was full, which goes a long way to explaining why China's box office revenue during this year's Spring Festival holiday has exceeded 7 billion yuan (about $985 million).

While the consumer market is booming, I also heard some "complaints" in the crowd. Although many businesses have changed the traditional business philosophy of the Spring Festival holiday, from closing or downsizing business for the holiday, it is almost an impossible task to stay open and accommodate such a large influx of patrons. Some joke that during the Spring Festival, people line up to give money to businesses, but even this may not be able to enjoy good service. At the same time, some people sigh that although life is rich and time is abundant, every holiday will feel that the way of leisure and entertainment is still so boring, products are limited. Besides travel, watching movies and shopping, many people do not know how to enrich their holiday life. These ideas actually reflect a reality: once a potential group with huge consumption power is "activated," China's existing commercial resources are still difficult to meet the needs of this huge consumer group. This also reflects the fact that China's consumer market still has huge potential to tap into, and it is imperative to carry out structural reforms on the supply side to promote industrial transformation and upgrading.

For some time those who badmouth China's economy, there is no shortage of words such as "consumption downgrade", "market depression," "development slowdown," but through the Spring Festival holiday I found that this phenomenon is not completely non-existent, but at least not universal. Through careful observation of the behavior pattern of Chinese consumption you can find that people become more cautious when spending money. Regarding consumption, people's standards for high quality products and services have been increasing. The economic data shows that the total amount of China's domestic consumer spending is continuing to expand, the corresponding consumption structure is also changing, and the proportion of enjoyment and development consumption is increasing, which is bound to bring about a "reshuffle" of the consumer market.

This can also be a good explanation as to why, in the past period of time, the development of cheap grocery stores represented by Walmart and Carrefour in China has slowed down, while the development of high-end chain membership warehouse stores represented by Sam and Costco in China has been increasing, This is due to the improvement of the overall education level of residents and the extensive development of international communication activities. The consumption concept of domestic residents is becoming more and more mature and rational, and only by continuously improving the quality of products and services can we better meet the needs of consumption upgrading. For foreign investors, this phenomenon is also revelatory, as long as it can provide a variety of goods, China is undoubtedly still a hot land for investment opportunities.

Therefore, the prosperity of Wuhan during the Spring Festival challenges some of the doomsayers about the Chinese economy. Under the premise that consumption has been the biggest driver of China's economic growth for many years, the booming market means that the momentum of economic development is still strong. The growing material and cultural needs of the people shows that the consumer market is facing the problem of transformation and upgrading. Given the coexistence of opportunities and problems, continuous reform and development will be the best way to release vitality. As a Wuhan native, I deeply feel that although there will be some difficulties and setbacks in the development of the city and even the country, the people's yearning for a better life will continue to provide momentum for development.

The author is a reporter with Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn