By Julia Jun
Photo courtesy of Chinese New Year by Stefano Borghi Cartier, Creative Commons License
2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, and people are ready to celebrate! Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, is the single most important holiday in China and many Asian countries. Stretching as far back as nearly 3,500 years ago according to Chinese history, Lunar New Year is celebrated during the second new moon after the winter solstice. But this year is unlike any other, because China has finally waived their strict Zero-COVID Policy and people all over the country are rushing to meet relatives and friends. According to CNN, “China’s Ministry of Transport estimates over 2 billion passenger trips will take place during the 40-day Lunar New Year season as people across the country return to their hometowns for family reunions for the first time without domestic travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic over three years ago.” On the eve of the Lunar New Year, more than 26 million people were recorded to have been traveling on passenger trips, 4 million people of which traveled by train and nearly a million by plane.
China’s economy has not fared well due to COVID. Just a week before, COVID policies regarding traveling were extremely strict. According to ABC news, China’s National Bureau of Statistics, “showed that China’s economy was buckling under the zero-COVID restrictions, missing Beijing’s target of 5.5% annual growth, collapsing to only 3% from 8.4% in 2021, the slowest since the 1970s apart from the first year of the pandemic.” As a result of both public discontent and economic disparity, China is slowly starting to return to its pre-COVID norms. With a population of 1.4 billion people, there are too many variables and scenarios where things can go wrong. WEBMD states, “The World Health Organization says China is under-representing the severity of the current outbreak,” and, “International health experts predict at least 1 million COVID-related deaths in China this year.” With China’s declining population and extremely low birth rates, such a huge number of deaths is definitely not economically beneficial and will only contribute to the decreasing population.
Since 2019, this will be the first year where Lunar New Year festivals will be held without many restrictions. With millions traveling from hometowns to their beloved, New Year’s this year will undoubtedly be a special holiday for everyone. While it is definitely a joyous event for many, officials are worried as they anticipate another COVID wave after lifting all previous restrictions.