How consumption is becoming new driver of GDP expansion

Updated: Mar 6, 2023 By Ouyang Shijia China Daily Print
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In the normal course, the Spring Festival holiday every year would see me take the traditional route to family reunions in my hometown. This year, however, my husband and I chose to spend the long-awaited vacation in Gubei Water Town, a well-known site for cultural tourism in Beijing's Miyun district.

Hot spring baths, swims in the "infinity pool", temple fairs, walks through the local streets donned in Han-style clothes, experiences like operating a traditional wooden movable-type printing press, and paper-art lessons … things like that made my three-day vacation memorable.

For the first time, I found my family vacation can be relaxing as well. I'll vouch that cultural tours can yield fascinating learning experiences.

The vacation cost me around 3,000 yuan ($435), including accommodation, food and cultural experiences. It reignited my passion for travel and immersive cultural experiences.

Well, hundreds of millions of my compatriots would probably voice similar sentiments. During the week-long Chinese New Year holiday, China saw a robust recovery in tourism and spending.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, there were 308 million domestic tourist visits during the seven-day holiday, up about 23 percent year-on-year. That meant almost 89 percent of the 2019 level. Domestic tourism revenue reached about 375.8 billion yuan, up 30 percent year-on-year and about 73 percent of the 2019 level.

Citing the latest economic reading, experts said China is on track for a steady recovery, as demand has picked up significantly amid the implementation of optimized COVID-19 control measures and Beijing's stimulus measures for growth.

NBS data showed China's economic activity, including manufacturing and services, expanded for the first time in four months in January. The official purchasing managers index for China's manufacturing sector bounced back to 50.1 in January from 47 in December, mainly led by a recovery in new orders. And China's nonmanufacturing PMI came in at 54.4 in January from 41.6 in December, mainly driven by the services sub-index.

The improvement in economic activity offers the latest official snapshot of the release of the pent-up demand, as the country is giving priority to expanding domestic demand and spurring consumption.

Guan Tao, global chief economist of BOC International, said the latest PMI reading points to steady improvement in both demand and supply, especially the rapid release of the pent-up consumption demand.

Local governments across the country are also ramping up efforts to stimulate consumption.

For instance, Beijing recently unveiled a new document on key tasks mapped out by the Beijing Municipal Government Work Report (2023). The document urged more efforts to boost consumption this year, including spurring consumption in housing, new energy vehicles and elder care.

In South China's Guangdong province, consumption has witnessed a strong rebound during the Spring Festival holiday with a series of measures to spur consumption. Guangzhou's Beijing Road shopping area alone reached a business volume of 345 million yuan in the weeklong holiday, up 19.4 percent year-on-year, official data showed.

Looking ahead, Wu Chaoming, deputy director of the Chasing International Economic Institute, said consumption will become the main driving force behind China's steady growth in 2023.

Given the optimized COVID-19 containment measures, the gradual normalization of economic activities, the higher level of release of households' excess savings and a low comparison base, notable growth of between 7 percent and 11 percent in China's retail sales may be possible this year, he said.


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