Tourists take photos while visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on Monday. During the Spring Festival holiday, the famous historic site attracted a large number of visitors. (ZHANG TIANZHU/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Chinese New Year spree shows shoppers' big role in bolstering growth, say experts
Chinese consumers splurged during the Spring Festival holiday, not only on things like duty-free commodities, jewelry and health-related products, but also on experiences such as travel and entertainment, fueled by the optimization of COVID-19 prevention and control measures, industry experts said.
They added that China's consumer market, which plays a fundamental role in bolstering the country's economic growth, is expected to gain momentum this year, and the consumption boom during the weeklong Chinese Lunar New Year holiday showcased the enormous vitality and strong resilience of the nation's economy.
Statistics from the Department of Commerce of Hainan province showed that the total sales of 12 offshore duty-free shopping malls on the tropical island reached 1.69 billion yuan ($249.1 million) from Jan 21 to Wednesday, an increase of 20.03 percent compared with the first five days of last year's Spring Festival holiday.
Chinese e-commerce platform JD reported that between Jan 21 and Wednesday, the turnover of rabbit-themed jewelry skyrocketed more than tenfold over the last Spring Festival, while transaction volume of precooked dishes rose more than six times.
Health-related and nutritional products to boost the immune system are increasingly favored by Chinese shoppers, with the turnover of amino acid oral liquid and protein powder soaring 215 percent and 70 percent year-on-year, respectively.
While global economic growth is projected to decelerate from an estimated 3 percent in 2022 to 1.9 percent this year, China's growth is expected to moderately improve this year, said a report issued by the United Nations on Wednesday.
With the authorities adjusting COVID policies in late 2022 and easing monetary and fiscal policies, China's economic growth is forecast to accelerate to 4.8 percent in 2023, said the report.
China's GDP expanded 3 percent year-on-year in 2022 to 121.02 trillion yuan, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Consumption contributed to 32.8 percent of China's economic growth last year, driving GDP growth by 1.0 percentage point.
Analysts said that Spring Festival spending has been a barometer of China's consumption vitality, and the recovery of consumption will become the main force boosting China's economic rebound in 2023.
"The Spring Festival is the traditional festival that Chinese people attach the most importance to, and it's also a peak season for consumption," said Bai Ming, deputy director of international market research at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
China's consumer market has seen "recovery of growth" during the holiday, which indicates the vitality of domestic consumption and the restoration of consumer confidence, thanks to the optimized COVID-19 control measures, he said.
The domestic tourism market also witnessed a robust recovery during the holiday. According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, domestic destinations and attractions received 308 million visits, up 23.1 percent year-on-year. The number was roughly 88.6 percent of that in 2019.
Cinemas welcomed crowds of moviegoers, with the country's box office revenue for the holiday exceeding 6.5 billion yuan as of 4 pm on Friday, data from box office tracker Maoyan showed.
Chinese shoppers unleashed their pent-up purchasing demand during the Spring Festival, and their consumption level has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, said Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at Zhejiang University's International Business School.
Wu Chaoming, deputy director of the Chasing International Economic Institute, said the continued optimization of COVID-19 policies will significantly boost consumption growth and stimulate people's appetite to travel and spend this year.