Travel, spending plummet as Beijing sticks to ‘Zero-COVID’ . . .
During China's National Day holiday from October 1-7, Chinese tourists made 422 million domestic trips – an 18.2 per cent year-on-year drop, or the equivalent of 60.7 per cent of pre-pandemic figures in 2019. Traditionally a peak travel period, this year’s ‘October First Golden Week’ saw China Railway, the state-owned railway agency, report the lowest passenger count in a decade at 72 million between Sept. 28 and Oct. 8. According to Flight Master, a Shenzhen-based flight information provider, 4.95 million passengers took commercial flights over the seven-day break, the lowest tally in 14 years. Strict and extensive COVID-19 restrictions, including contact tracing, lockdowns, and quarantines, made the public fearful of travelling across provinces, and many who travelled opted for short-distance trips.
A harbinger of economic woes . . .
The week-long National Day holiday is regarded as a barometer for consumer spending and sentiment. This year’s data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism indicate that tourism revenue totalled C$55 billion (287 billion yuan), 26.2 per cent lower than last year’s and 56 per cent lower than in 2019. Spending at cinemas also plummeted, with box office revenue reaching only C$287 million (1.49 billion yuan), less than one-third of the revenue during the same period last year. These add to other concerning indications – including a struggling real estate sector and a weakening Yuan – that the world’s second-largest economy is facing mounting economic challenges.
State media doubles down on ‘dynamic zero COVID’ policy . . .
Eschewing these worrying economic indicators, most mainland media continue to laud China’s National Day celebrations, with several state outlets sending strong signals that authorities plan to stick to the country’s controversial ‘dynamic zero COVID’ policy. For three days in a row, the CCP’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper urged the country to uphold the ‘zero COVID’ playbook, hailing it as the “most effective” approach proved by the “orderly flow of people” during the National Day holiday. State news agency Xinhua also published a commentary denigrating the global norm of living with COVID. Eliminating COVID transmission and avoiding virus-related deaths will likely remain the cornerstone of President Xi’s leadership as the country looks toward the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a pivotal political meeting beginning Sunday where Xi is likely to secure a precedent-defying third term as the head of the ruling Party.
- Bloomberg: China’s holiday spending slumps as consumer demand in Asia slows
- Reuters: China's dreary Golden Week has shades of grey
- South China Morning Post: China gives clearest sign yet it will stick with zero-COVID strategy