Hello again from Aim2D real time, 24/7 #ChinaBusinessMarketing, Tech and Social Media News Portal of Bic Brands based in sunny Shunyi. Tuesdays we look at business, marketing, tech or social news in and around China. Friday is image gallery where we examine a place, topic or subject giving you greater insight, background to life in China, and of course, your Chinese consumer.
Last Wednesday Jan 3rd was the first official working day of 2023. Let’s see how this played out in Beijing.
Some times, usually but not always on a Friday, we release a slightly longer article.We generally take a wider, oft personal view and back up with stats and links to supporting data or background. Our Aim is to give you our reader and potential China investor or marketer a little more factual, current information than might be generally available via popular media.
We’ve coined them our Tea and Choc Bar articles, simply because if you are going to spend time ploughing through 1000+ words, you may as well do it in style and comfort!
So boil up the billy, unwrap a bar of supreme Taiatou dark choc and settle back with a cup of white tea.
If you’ve been reading the same western media as us, you would have been stunned to read of most of China’s population is at deaths door, sick with Covid, forcing most of China’s businesses to close. A panicked population, hospitals swamped, whilst millions of dead are expected to line the streets. This, apparently, was the result of China “foolishly” abandoning its Covid Zero policy end of October last year.
Which at the time, the same US media told us was draconian, inhuman and needed to be abandoned – same as the US etal had done around a year earlier. Confused?
Of course, we might mischievously suggest this was a lot of old cobblers, a narrative spun by a certain geriatric who may well be facing several billion dollars worth of expired Covid vaccine in the near future and was peeved China rebuffed his offer of sale.
You may find this background story enlightening!
China-Developed Covid Pill Matches Paxlovid, Study Shows
A China-developed Covid antiviral pill appeared to be as effective as Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid with fewer safety concerns, according to clinical trial results published Wednesday in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.Caixin Premium
The human suffering side of Covid
Of course, it hasn’t all been a bed or roses. The jolly red man delivered Covid down our Chimney Christmas Eve which laid most of us here low. We also have colleagues and clients in other parts of China whose families or work places were decimated by Covid.
We know first hand from clients in other cities as well as some smaller provinces that hospital beds and nursing staff were pushed to and beyond breaking point. Some of Beijing’s smaller hospitals were also under considerable strain and we know of people who struggled to source medications.
When it comes to idiots and low class scum, China is no different to the rest of the world. There were more than a fair share of scalpers offering allegedly “imported” vaccines or meds at prices often 10 times higher than the open market. But that, sadly, is human nature.
So whilst Social Media buzzed with people setting up access to free meds or donating surplus stock to over run hospitals it is, as always the dark, macabre side of Chinese life that western media chooses to focus on.
The reality is that, despite your political beliefs, Covid is a nasty illness which knocks the very fittest of us out of kilter for a few days. Some for several weeks. For those with weakened immune systems, failing health or reaching the baseline of their candle, it is a far, far more serious disease and the risk of death sadly increases proportionately.
Again, for many Chinese, the past 5 or 6 weeks have been sent straight from hell. It has been, for many, a time of abject misery, worry and suffering. Some might say, needlessly.
We tend to take a more objective viewpoint and suspect that despite choices made back in November, the last 6 or 8 weeks of 2022 in China were always going to be bloody awful for some.
But for the majority of mainstream Chinese we know, have spoken to or who social media accounts we have read it was a minor inconvenience they were not going to let spoil their short holiday. There has to be a balance, and balance is what today’s post is aiming for. An alternative view.
2023- China goes back to work and faces the future
Come Wednesday and back to work, here in Shunyi, some 30 mins from downtown Beijing, subways trains were back to levels not seen since summer last year. Busses also packed to capacity whilst the highways and main roads around our office hummed – or droned – with constant traffic.
Meanwhile, in downtown Beijing traffic jams were also the order of the day, busy subway stations, standing room only on busses, taxis everywhere but seemingly all hired. Takeaway breakfast shops full, cafes and lunch bars overflowing onto the street, crowds everywhere. What’s not to be happy about?
This was the scene facing Beijinger’s for the first time since late November, and in some suburbs, before that. Commuters who, several months back were enjoying around 20 to 30 minutes enroute in a near deserted city were suddenly faced with 1 hour plus journeys.
But humans are a funny species, we prefer the predictability and miss what we are so used to once it is removed. Brands would be well advised to heed that, consumers generally are not as keen a to embrace change as many CMO’s might be.
One commuter summed it up nicely”
“I felt a sense of relief to see so many people outdoors, getting their lives back,” he said.
There’s a weird contradiction here that we miss the comfort of the known, even though in itself the known is often uncomfortable.
Where would we be without stats!
According to the Beijing transport centre, 2.41 million commuter trips were recorded in subway stations by 9 am on Tuesday, an increase of 28 percent compared with that of last week. The number of bus trips reached 970,000, an increase of 17 percent.
What about China’s official holiday?
China officially observes a 3 day, Solar New Year break.
True, some international firms or those with a few days annual leave tucked away also took time off over Christmas. But in China, the 25th, and 26th are not the wild holiday season as in much of the west. People generally work up ’till December 31st.
This fact seemed lost on Australia, US and EU who immediately imposed extra testing and health conditions on Chinese visitors. Seems they were confused. Somehow expecting millions of Covid stricken (or worse) Chinese flocking to their borders to celebrate their Christmas week holiday. Was never going to happen.
Of course the truth was somewhat different. This latest anti China rhetoric was cooked up for domestic western consumption. The average European Joe who can’t think any further than the length of their noses.
So they tucked into their Christmas fare, grateful for the care and attention of their Gvts in keeping them safe from the millions of Covid infected Chinese massing at their borders. Conveniently forgetting that in countries, such as Australia and NZ, Covid was also raging closer at home.
Perhaps also a case of: “Chin up lad, things might be difficult at ‘ome, but China has it far worse.” A sad refection that we take comfort knowing others are worse off than us. A game plan lifted almost straight from the pages of any of Orwell’s dystopian works.
In truth, as we said, most Chinese were still busy working – no mass holiday here. Those who could take a few days off prior to the official New Year break traditionally spent a day or 2 in a neighbouring province. Or for those with cash to splash, a weekend in China’s southern neighbours, historically Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand.
Hush – what is that sound? Money!
Today, China’s department of stats revealed that between Saturday and Monday, the three-day New Year’s Day holiday, Beijing’s major department stores, supermarkets, restaurants and online commerce platforms racked up 3.53 billion yuan ($511 million) in total revenue.
Or 83.8% of the total revenue during the same period the previous year. Beijing’s major commercial areas saw about 12.18 million visits during the holiday.
That’s circa 50% of Beijing’s 20+ mill population.
Doesn’t quite fit the western media story of millions languishing at home, terrified of Covid, inadequately vaccinated, rooted at home with fear.
In Beijing at least, it seems seems holidaymakers did not share western media’s negative view of the loosening Covid controls and felt more optimistic about going out. A total 2.69 million visits to tourist attractions led to a total revenue of 248.27 million yuan. Up 44.5 percent compared with pre pandemic 2019.
Taking a wider view over Mainland China
So far we’ve focused on Beijing, but according to national wide stats, more of China’s domestic travellers took trips out of town during the past New Year holiday than in 2022. So, again, Chinese seem to see end of Covid restrictions in a considerably more positive light than foreign media.
According to an article from Caixin Global: Out-of-town trips make a New Year’s comeback in China, 60% of users of online travel agency Trip.com chose to travel to another province during the three-day weekend that ended Monday. That figure was up from 40% last year. Data from online travel agency, Ly.com, showed that holiday travellers made 67.6% of their hotel bookings in a different city, up from 51.3% in 2022.
New Year Crowds back on China’s Streets
Separately China Daily reported restaurants, hotels and shopping malls across the country saw the long-lost hustle and bustle of crowds return during the New Year’s holiday following China’s relaxation of COVID-19 control measures.
Meituan retail platform showed daily life services saw an online consumption value jump of 75% over pre covid 2019. The amount of spending recorded in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, as well as Beijing and Shanghai, ranked tops nationwide.
Yet, according to Associated Press:
a surge in virus cases that has left employers without enough healthy workers and kept wary customers away from shopping malls, restaurants, hair salons and gyms.Source
Do they make this stuff up or what?
According to Song Xiangqing, vice-dean of the School of Government at Beijing Normal University:
“Chinese consumers are showing their spending enthusiasm during the period around Spring Festival and there is a pent-up demand due to the pandemic that needs to be released. Retail, catering, accommodation and sightseeing spots nationwide are expected to embrace another round of spending sprees.”
This thinking is in line with other industry insiders or experts who predict that Chinese spending on travel, accommodation and hospitality this 2023 Chinese New Year festival ( from Jan 21st) will set records not seen since pre Covid 2019. This will be a huge boost to the long suffering services industry and likely set the stage for a return to decent 3% or 5% growth in the second or third quarters.
Among China’s sub 30 year old sector, local entertainment such as karaoke and hot springs were popular as were bookings at high-end hotels. Bed-and-breakfasts with distinctive features have become increasingly popular. More than 80 percent of reservations were young consumers aged below 30 driving the occupancy rate of high-end hotels available on Meituan to a record high in 2022.
Crystal Ball Gazing?
We are now into the “official” booking period for Spring Festival holiday travel in China. According to Caixin Global:
China’s passenger traffic surged almost 39% year-on-year on the first day of this year’s official Spring Festival travel rush, suggesting that unwinding its “zero-Covid” policy will help restore travel demand during the world’s largest annual human migration.
On Saturday, Chinese public transport systems carried 34.7 million passengers, according to data (link in Chinese) from the State Council, the country’s cabinet. Despite the year-on-year increase, the number represents a 48.6% drop from the first day of the travel rush before the pandemic in 2019.Caixin
To put that into simple perspective, it is still only 50% of bookings pre pandemic but still 39% up from last year. However, we should not place to much store in those figures. A lot has changed in China since 2019, notably the increase in personal automobiles. We would guess a large % who hitherto took the train, will opt to self drive this year.
With just a few more weeks left till the great migration a better picture should emerge circa Feb when final travel figures as well as consumer spending levels can be gauged
Rounding off today’s post, we hope you find these images interesting, shot Wednesday around Beijing’s CBD courtesy of our friends at China Daily. The eagle eyed among you may notice something missing – SNOW. Despite a few negative 15* mornings and bright, sunny, pleasant +5* days, Beijing has not seen snow since circa Jan 22nd, 2022.
If you’d like more information on putting your service or products in-front-of what is likely to be a booming China consumer market this year Fanfan is always on hand to advise and support.
Talk to Fanfan today about your China Social Media Marketing Plan.
A GenY or Millennial generation Ms Wang brings a fresh, modern, personally realistic viewpoint on how to reach this much coveted China consumer group.
Prior to helping start the Bicaverse, Fan studied Fashion Marketing at Manchester university. She has also travelled extensively across Europe.
A strong supporter of Chinese fashion designers Fan has a close network with many like minded China marketing professionals being instrumental in many of our client’s success.
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