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China’s Society And Economy Amidst Lunar New Year: Stepping Out Of The Relieved Covid-19 Cases Surge in 2022

Since late November, 2022, China has reopened itself after almost three years of strict covid-19 containment policies. In the following month, the covid cases in many major Chinese cities as well as villages oversaw a rapid surge causing widespread deaths and social and economic disturbances. 

Around mid-to-late January this year when most Chinese enjoyed their spring break to celebrate lunar new year, the unprecedented surge of covid cases in China seemed to have been very relieved. Once terrified of the virus and the public settings supposed to be immersed in it without government protection, Chinese people are returning to a healthy and normal way of life, despite suffering from continued economic pressure and family tragedies. 

Finally, Chinese people are stepping out of the pandemic.

Domestic traveling of China during the Spring Break continued to recover, climbing to a level unprecedented close to that of 2019 since the pandemic. This represents a 99.5% growth from the last year.

As different media has covered, offline celebration activities of Lunar New Year were more than popular in major Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. Crowds are flooding into scenery, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, and recreational parks, a sharp contrast to the empty streets and facilities under the strict containment policies in the last year.

Domestic consumption, long repressed by the economically crippling containment policies, finally embraced its resurgence. Consumer spending on the Ant Group Co.’s payment platform Alipay more than doubled at tourist destinations from a year ago, the company said. Searches for hotel bookings surged 600% and hotel spending on the platform jumped 80%, it said. 

The society is liberating itself as well. Long banned because of environmental concerns, fire works are being used again for celebrating the spring festival. Some youngsters in Henan, Jiangsu, and Gansu Provinces collided with local police who attempted to uphold the ban.

In Henan, several police cars were toppled and smashed by the youngsters, and scattered violence occurred between them and the local police. In Jiangsu, citizens marched against groups of police and reached a statue of Sun Yat-Sen, the founding father of Republican China that ended the imperial dynasties once and for all, where they ignited their varied fireworks.

Spirit similar to the demonstrators and protestors in foreign societies are seen, though not of the very peaceful sort. Still, all these reflects a decent start for the Chinese economy and society of the year.

However, the optimism should be qualified, said some Chinese and foreign analysts. Long-term economic development of China is determined by systemic factors that are not yet on a preferable track. Lowering population growth, poor employment settings, and economic and social inequalities are among the issues. 

Political and social uncertainty is anticipated to persist in the following years. Some international conflicts risk sanctions from major economic powers, which may force China to decouple with them.

Whether the short-term rebound at the start of the year could boost the long-term recovery and growth depends on China’s progress in tackling these problems. Hope, as always, run hand-in-hand with risks and uncertainties.

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