Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Lifestyle / News

Are we finally seeing a return to normalcy?

By Stephanie Stone | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-23 09:37
Share - WeChat

The last few weeks have seen a dramatic shift in rhetoric and policy in China's approach to COVID-19. We've been told that there will be a "return to normalcy" in the near future — possibly as early as the spring of 2023! But how are they defining "normalcy" and by what metrics? Economic normalcy? Psychological normalcy? Normal travel and consumer habits? Here are my thoughts on the matter from my point of view as an expat in Beijing. What would make my life in China "normal" (aka pre-pandemic) again?

In my nonexpert opinion, I think "normalcy" will come in stages. The first is already in progress and that is unrestricted movement in China. For the last three years, our comings and goings have been micromanaged by apps tracking where we've been, if we've been testing regularly, and if we've been around anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. While I think this tracking system had its benefits at the start of the pandemic when the virus was at its most deadly, it has taken an emotional and psychological toll. The fear of accidentally entering a COVID "hot spot" and being locked in Ikea or Disneyland (but let's be real — everyone secretly wants to be locked in Disneyland!) was real. People didn't travel out of their province because of the very real possibility that they would be denied access upon their return, or to their city, or even their own apartment building. And even if you felt bold enough to chance it, you really couldn't with the citywide lockdowns and limited rail and flight options. The good news is that one travel tracking app has already been scrapped! We no longer have to scan a QR code to enter most buildings and public spaces. Progress!

The next stage of "normalcy" we need to achieve is psychological/emotional normalcy. The pandemic has taken its toll, not just in China, but around the world. There's been an underlying current of fear, anxiety and frustration over the past three years, and it will take a while to reverse. As the steam is being let out of the pressure cooker with China's new COVID measures, we will hopefully start to let go of that tension.

This will then lead to people being confident to travel again. I think the first proof-of-concept opportunity China will face is during the Chinese New Year holiday, which this year falls in late January. Will the largest migration of people on Earth happen again in 2023? Time will tell. If it does, it will be a celebration like China hasn't seen in a long while. One for the history books.

As Chinese citizens feel comfortable moving around their cities, freely visiting relatives, friends and tourist sites, I think that, next, we will see more international business travelers. With time and investment here in China, international business people will be the first to really "try out" the newly opened China. Will there still be quarantine measures in place upon entering the mainland? Will it be easy for foreigners to travel during their stay? That will be a huge determining factor in the next, and final, stage: tourists.

Adventurous travelers will need some social proof before coming to China. Let's be honest, China has a bit of an optics problem when it comes to international travel at the moment, and it will take time to turn that around. Possibly as early as summer 2024, if I had to hazard a guess. Make no mistake: people want to visit China. People want to live and work here. Those living here want to travel and explore. It just needs to be easy and palatable to do so again. And I believe it is within China's ability to get there.

Once all these stages are "complete", then I will feel like China has "returned to normal". I can't wait. I love living in a capital city where so many people from so many different walks of life intersect. I love this vast nation's history and culture and I want to explore it further. I hope we are on the road to "normalcy", but after three years of challenges, I can only be cautiously optimistic.


Stephanie Stone



Most Popular
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349