In a Better Place
China’s economic rebound lifts global growth prospects.
Life is fast returning to normal after China optimised its COVID-19-related policy at the end of 2022. People have shown strong interest in travel and other economic activities as they can move freely with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. China’s economy is on course for a robust recovery, which was indicated during the Spring Festival holiday on 21-27 January.
Some 308 million tourists crisscrossed the length and breadth of the country to spend the Spring Festival with family, friends and loved ones during the week-long holiday. The figure was 23.1 percent higher compared to the previous year. According to China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, this year-on-year increase brings the scale of travel this year to 88 percent of the pre-pandemic level in 2019. China’s travel, tourism and hospitality revenues rose 30 percent year on year during the holiday to reach to 375.84 billion yuan ($55 billion), which is 73.1 percent of the revenue in the same period in 2019. Such a large-scale mobility of people is also made possible by a highly developed, modern and effective transport network across the country.
The rebound in travel during the Spring Festival holiday exemplifies the post-COVID-19 economic recovery in the country. Economists and financial experts are describing the economic recovery as a V-shaped, rather than a U-shaped one. The recovery has ignited consumer demand that has boosted production and produced a domino effect throughout the stagnant supply chains globally.
Since the easing of the travel curbs, outbound travel from China saw a surge of more than 600 percent year on year and airline ticket bookings increased four-fold. These staggering figures are indicative of a new thinking on development and growth innovation. Some blocs of nations have a short-sighted perspective as they haplessly try to cling to a bygone era when they reigned supreme. Instead, they should acknowledge the remarkable progress of countries that have freed themselves from the dehumanising shackles of colonialism.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China’s economy is predicted to grow by 5.2 percent in 2023, and is expected to accelerate as mobility and confidence in the improved healthcare infrastructure grows. China has taken the lead as an economic powerhouse and has also chosen to uphold the vision of common prosperity and shared future as espoused by President Xi Jinping.
The pledge to promote high-standard opening up announced at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in October 2022, will bolster global economic development and render the unjustified sanctions and erroneous protectionist policies of the US redundant. The fundamentals for a just transition and heightened transparency are taking shape. The current geopolitical turmoil has exposed a flawed system, one that is riddled with double speak and double standards.
As the dwindling population of Europe and deteriorating economic conditions in the West take hold, the situation presents an ideal opportunity for Africa to redirect its tourism and hospitality strategy to attract travellers from China. Like all travellers, the Chinese tourists have expectations and preferences, and safety, hygiene and public health measures are of importance when choosing a destination. Stability, attractive pricing and sufficient capacity are other factors that attract tourists apart from the obvious relaxation and recreational experience.
China’s strong economic resilience is expected to contribute to the economic recovery in other developing countries, especially African countries. According to the World Economic Outlook recently issued by the IMF, five Sub-Saharan African countries, namely, Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, will see fast expansion of their GDP this year. This region’s economic growth is expected to be at 3.6 percent in 2023 and rise to 3.9 percent in 2024. Regardless of the global economic uncertainty, the continent’s resilience is demonstrated by these countries’ fast-growing economies.
The all-encompassing significance of travel, tourism and hospitality is deeply rooted in the pre-historic nomadic human existence. Today’s hi-tech era of state-of-the-art logistics and infrastructure allows for greater sophistication in travel, and nuanced information and digitisation provide richer and more meaningful people-to-people interactions. The global South is increasingly realising its untapped potential and reinterpreting history as it takes control of its own destiny.
The author is director of the Diplomatic Society of South Africa.