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Home / Opinion / Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri

Festivals provide optimism in challenging year

By H.E. Dr. Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri | | Updated: 2020-10-13 10:07
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Tourists pose for a group selfie in front of the Temple of Heaven during the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday in Beijing, on Oct 4, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

For generation upon generation, Mid-Autumn Festival has held a special place in the Chinese calendar. This festival not only provides a chance for friends and families to gather with mooncakes and lanterns, but also provides an opportunity to look back upon the year.

In the past, what was known at this time as the Moon Festival was celebrated at harvest time, with ancient Chinese emperors worshipping the moon in autumn to thank it for the harvest.

This is quite a fitting comparison for the year China has faced. There has been a great focus upon the challenging year the country has had, among the most difficult peacetime periods in the modern era.

There has been much focus and hard work. From my standpoint, China has reaped the benefits from excellent management of this year's challenges.

We are now at the flipside of the situation earlier in the year, around spring. At this time China was beset by the onset of COVID-19.

Now there is a wholly different story, and the China at the start of the year is unrecognizable to the China at its close.

The country is probably the first notable country to emerge from this challenge with a "new normal".

This of course is not the glowing rate of 8 percent growth we have come to expect from China over the last 20 years. However, this is a solid showing when global economies are in freefall and finding dealing with COVID-19 too challenging.

The Chinese economy is also moving to a new phase. China is transforming its domestic consumption. This was clear even before this year, as the proportion of exports in China's GDP has dropped from about 35 percent in 2006 to about 17 percent last year.

China's shift from an export-oriented economy to a domestic consumption and investment-driven one is a natural progression of the expanding Chinese economy. This has grown larger with rising household incomes, and the services sector accounts for a greater portion of its GDP.

There is a different mood in China now, and a sense of optimism in the air.

This has been buoyed by measures of manufacturing activity rising in the month of September. The official China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 51.5 in September, up from 51 in August. This is ahead of expectations, which were at about 51.2 percent from a respected poll of economists by Reuters.

In August, China's industrial output accelerated the most in eight months, while retail sales grew for the first time this year. Such figures suggest the economic recovery is gathering pace as demand starts to improve more broadly from the coronavirus crisis.

An internal tourism boom took place over National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival, with 637 million visits made to attractions on the Chinese mainland over the eight days, compared to 782 million visits around the same time last year. A total of 13.26 million airline passenger trips were also made, compared with 12.8 million in the same period last year.

Looking at the consumer market more broadly, Mid-Autumn Festival saw average daily wholesale and retail size rise 14.1 percent compared with the National Day holiday last year.

Tourists visit Senado Square in Macao on Oct 1, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The positive developments in the tourism and consumer sectors during the festival all provide another solid sign China is well on the road to recovery. Furthermore, this shows a move toward longer-term development of the consumer sector.

As we take stock of the year at this time, we can see China has responded well to these challenges and is now moving toward recovery. There is cause for optimism too, with a successful vaccine already issued to frontline staff in China as well as frontline staff in the UAE, following the results of the Sinopharm-G42 Phase III Clinical Trials.

The UAE has also had its own robust response to the pandemic, leading the Arab region in the COVID Economic Recovery Index. Despite being deeply affected by the global pandemic initially, the UAE has displayed stronger economic resilience, which supports recovery. Now both the UAE and China are looking forward to deepening cooperation post-COVID-19. During the closing of the festival, we had a visit from Yang Jiechi, Special Representative of President Xi to the UAE, where messages were exchanged between the Chinese and UAE leadership. Paths of strategic cooperation were covered between our countries and the most important enablers of development, especially in the scientific, medical, investment and economic fields.

There is now a sense of optimism for China and all stakeholders in a shared global economy, as the robustness of the Chinese economy against worldwide recession and health crisis has been demonstrated. We should expect a rejuvenated China as we move into a post-pandemic phase. The positive breakthroughs we are seeing position China once more as a driver of the global economy.

The author is ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to China. The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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