By following US policy toward China, EU risks suffering most damage among the three

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Beijing on Friday. De Croo's visit to China is one of the most important high-level contacts between China and the EU this year, following the visits to China by European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in December.

The visit highlights the ongoing dialogue and interaction between China and the EU, especially as Belgium recently assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and De Croo will be in a pivotal position to coordinate the EU's policy agenda for the next six months.

EU's relationship with China is complex and multifaceted, with differences between the two sides in a number of areas, including trade imbalances and subsidies, and the conflict in Ukraine. However, these specific issues are set against the backdrop of broader geopolitical and global power shifts that have caused unease in the EU.

Europeans are increasingly aware of China's growing presence on the global stage, not only in the economic sphere but also in the technological and geopolitical spheres.

The changing relationship between the three poles of China, the US and Europe is not a new phenomenon. While the US continues to lead, China and the EU are playing an increasing role on the global stage, which has become more pronounced in the wake of the advancement of Europe's strategic autonomy and the rise of China.

As an ally of the US, the EU continues to be highly concerned about China's rise. This is well illustrated by comparing the covers of two issues of The Economist, a British weekly newspaper, which in 2013 featured the threat of China's carbon emissions to the World. In 2024, the cover showed the new threat of China's lead in green technologies. 

If you imagine China, the US and the EU as three runners on a track, the US is still leading, and China is occasionally ahead of the EU, but most of the time, it is the other way around. It's often the second-place runner that's more anxious.

This race scene also shows us the difference between US and European policy toward China. 

The EU is currently focused on decreasing reliance on foreign high-end technology suppliers, particularly to avoid being surpassed or replaced by China in critical areas, while also implementing protective measures to counter the impact of Chinese manufacturing on the European market. In contrast, the US strives to uphold its global dominance in high-tech fields and key manufacturing areas by constraining China.

The outcome of this competition is different from what the US expected: Rather than rebuilding supply chains to exclude Chinese manufacturing, each player seeks to consolidate and strengthen its position in existing supply chains.

"Decoupling" and "breaking the chain" are not feasible. It is improbable that either party can construct a new, fully independent global supply chain. If the EU adopts the US approach toward China, it may end up more reliant on the US and suffer the most damage among the three parties.

As the EU follows the US containment policy toward China, especially in semiconductor manufacturing equipment, it risks losing a lucrative market with the strongest end-product manufacturing capacity, widening the gap with the US.

The EU's strategic dilemma with China also reflects its strategic dilemma with the US. The EU aims to be the leading global economy but also wants to maintain reliance on the US, strategically using the alliance to build its own influential position globally.

The EU needs to define its approach to China independently. This doesn't mean the EU should draw a clear line with the US, but there is a need for a more pragmatic, rational and comprehensive attitude when considering its relationship with China. It should not always focus on competition with China and ignore the widening gap with the US.

If the EU can more frequently consider its relationship with China from a different perspective, then both China and Europe have competitive and cooperative aspects, with the latter potentially reducing the gap between the two sides and the US, thereby bringing stability to the world's multipolarization.

Therefore, creating more connections between the EU and China is crucial. With more bridges, there will be more roads, improved communication and better understanding. China and EU can establish a new relationship that will support balanced global development.

Multiple places in C.China’s Henan suspend classes, transportation due to continuous snowfall

Multiple places in Central China’s Henan Province suspend classes and transportation on Tuesday due to continuous snowstorms which are expected to last until Thursday. 

The Henan Meteorological Service issued a yellow alert for snowstorm at 11 pm on Monday, warning that snowfalls of 5 millimeters or above were forecast in multiple cities across the province including Jiyuan, Jiaozuo, Xinxiang, Luoyang and some parts of Zhengzhou between 2 pm and 10 pm. In particular, snowfalls in Jiyuan, western part of Jiaozuo, western part of Xinxiang, Sanmenxia and northwestern part of Luoyang reached 10 millimeters or above. The most extreme snowfall of 20.1 millimeters occurred in Shaoyuan town in Jiyuan city. 

The meteorological observatory in Qinyang city upgraded the snowstorm alert to red at 10:25 pm on Monday, notifying residents of continuous snowfall of 15 millimeters over the past six hours in the city, warning the impact of the snowfalls on the traffic and agricultural production. 

Affected by the snowstorms, primary and middle schools in Jiaozuo downtown suspended classes on Tuesday morning and kindergarten will suspend class for the whole day.  

Sanmenxia also issued an emergency notice to suspend classes at primary schools, kindergarten and training institutions on Tuesday. 

Kindergartens in Qinyang will suspend class for the whole day on Tuesday while primary schools and junior middle schools suspended classes on Tuesday morning. Schools in the mountainous areas in the northern part of the city will suspend classes the whole Tuesday. 

In Jiyuan, non-boarding primary schools and kindergartens will suspend classes on Tuesday and the training institutions and sports venues will suspend operation. Construction projects at schools will also be suspended. 

Meanwhile, highway services across Henan will be subject to traffic control measures. Toll stations along some sections of the highways in Sanmenxia, Luoyang, Xinxiang, Jiyuan, Jiaozuo, Xuchang, Hebi, Zhengzhou, Pingdingshan will prohibit the pass of all kinds of vehicles. 

Several sections of road in Zhengzhou will prohibit the passage of the vehicles transporting dangerous goods. 

In Xin’an and Luoning counties in Luoyang, public transportation and shuttle buses are being suspended. 

Since many roads in mountainous areas and plains have been frozen or covered by snow in Jiyuan, all the public transportation in these areas has been suspended. 

In Zhengzhou, the snowfall has been forecast to last until Tuesday night and the freezing alert for roads in the city remains in effect. 

Seven railway trains departing from Zhengzhou on Tuesday have been suspended as of 9:50 am and dozens of bus lines in the city were also suspended. 

Bus stations across the city will issue alerts of changing weather conditions and warnings of safe driving as well as launch emergency response plans against the rainy and snowy weather conditions. 

The first extensive rain and snow in 2024 has been predicted to last for an extended period of time with severe intensity in some areas. It is forecast that the rain and snow will extend to more than 20 provinces and cities such East China’s Shandong and Anhui provinces. 

Over coming days, mixed rain and snow will continue in Xi'an, Zhengzhou and other places with rain and snow days lasting for three days or longer. Rainfall in Chongqing, Wuhan, Changsha and other places is expected to continue, with rainfall lashing each city for large parts of each day. 

In North China’s Shanxi Province, 59 counties, cities or district were hit by rain and snow weather on Monday. The local meteorological disaster emergency headquarters launched a level-4 emergency response for major meteorological disasters. 

The local meteorological bureau in Shanxi expects that most parts of Shanxi will still have rain and snow in the next three days, and the lowest temperature in areas experiencing extreme cold will drop to near minus 18 C, which will impact transportation, public travel, energy supply, agriculture production and animal husbandry. 

Results of Taiwan leadership, legislature elections unveiled

Taiwan's leadership and legislature elections were held on Saturday.

Candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Lai Ching-te and his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim won the leadership election.

In the election of the island's 113-seat legislature, the Chinese Kuomintang party garnered 52 seats, the DPP won 51 seats, and the Taiwan People's Party seized eight seats. The rest two went to independent candidates.

Washington urged to keep promise on Taiwan question

China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday urged the US to abide by the one-China principle, stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists, and refrain from interfering in the Taiwan's regional leader election in any form, after reports disclosed that the Biden administration will dispatch a delegation comprised of former senior officials to the island of Taiwan shortly after the island's regional leader election to be held on Saturday.

Chinese experts noted that the US' scheme would be destructive to China-US relations, and is highly likely to trigger countermeasures from the Chinese side, which has reiterated the core significance of the Taiwan question.

Citing people familiar with the plan, the Financial Times (FT) said in a Wednesday report that the White House has tapped James Steinberg, a former Democratic deputy secretary of state, and Stephen Hadley, a former Republican national security adviser, to lead the bipartisan delegation to Taiwan island. 

The FT report said that the purpose of sending the delegation is to ensure Washington was "communicating clearly" with the winning and losing candidates about US policy and the "uniqueness of the unofficial relationship" between the US and Taiwan island.

The Associated Press (AP) said sending the delegation is the "most effective way" to engage the newly-elected authorities and convey US policy.

One senior administration official said that the delegation "will convey the importance of ties" between the US and Taiwan island and also reiterate Washington's "one-China policy," CNN reported, noting that exact composition of the delegation was still being determined, per senior administration officials it reached. 

"Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. China always firmly opposes any form of official exchanges between the US and Taiwan authorities," Mao Ning, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. 

The US side should earnestly abide by the one-China principle, prudently and properly handle the Taiwan question, stop sending any wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists, and refrain from interfering in the Taiwan regional elections in any form, so as to avoid causing serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, Mao said. 

She added that China will take resolute and forceful measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the US releasing such a message a few days before the Taiwan regional election is a move apparently aimed at appeasing secessionists on the island, and encouraging voters "not to be afraid to support secessionists."

US tricks cannot change the overall situation of the Chinese mainland seizing the initiative of the cross-Straits situation, Lü said, "China stays focused and will make all kinds of contingency plans. If the US crosses the red line, China will definitely take firm countermeasures."

Citing one former US official, the FT report noted that sending the delegation to Taipei right after the election was a "risky move that could backfire."  

Diao Daming, an expert on US studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday that disclosing the planning of the trip ahead of the Taiwan regional leader election may suggest that the US believes that whoever takes office can be used by the White House to implement the US' "Indo-Pacific" strategy. 

"If secessionist Lai Ching-te is elected, it will carry out more risk management, and if KMT's Hou Yu-ih is elected, the US will hold him back from getting too close with the mainland," he explained. 

But Washington should be aware that if there is any reaction from the Chinese side, it is the result of US actions, said Diao, "Instead of being concerned about the China's countermeasures, the US should follow through on its promise [on Taiwan question]."

The US move also came amid recent increased interactions between China and US to stabilize strained ties. 

Liu Jianchao, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, visited the US this week, urging it to abide by its commitment to not support "Taiwan independence."

At the Carter Center Forum commemorating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations on Tuesday, Xie Feng, Chinese Ambassador to the US, reiterated that the Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive question in China-US relations.

China hopes to maintain stability in the Taiwan Straits and does not want to see a conflict between China and the US over the Taiwan question, but the premise is that the US cannot cross the red line, otherwise China will definitely respond in a "tit for tat" manner, Lü said 

China's communication with the US on the Taiwan question is entirely a manifestation of goodwill,Lü said,"If one day China no longer talks about the Taiwan question with the US, it means that China does not consider Washington to be a factor, then the situation will be irreversible."

Blinken's fifth Israel visit since Gaza war for diplomatic posture, rather than real mediation: experts

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after touring multiple Arab countries, is meeting Israeli leaders on Tuesday amid the enduring Gaza humanitarian disaster, Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping and the escalation in hostilities at the Israel-Lebanon borders.

Speaking alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog ahead of their meeting on Tuesday, Blinken said he would share what he had heard from regional countries during a day of meetings with Israel's government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuters reported.

Blinken's agenda for his fifth Israel visit in three months includes discussing the next phase of Israel's military campaign and pressing on the protection of civilians, according to the US Department of State. 

But Chinese observers have low expectations that Blinken's trip can help alleviate the tension, as Israel shows no signs of softening its military assertiveness while the US eyes a diplomatic posture rather than real mediation. 

Since Friday, Blinken has visited countries including Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. During the trip, he repeated multiple times the urgency of de-escalating the tension and discussed plans for the future governance of Gaza. 

On Monday, Blinken said Palestinians "must not be pressed to leave Gaza" and he criticized "irresponsible" comments by some Israel ministers calling for people's resettlement outside the enclave, media reported.

Yet US calls may only get symbolic resonation from Israel as the two close allies are diverging wider and wider on Gaza and Middle East issues, Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Israeli officials said the strikes in Gaza have entered a new phase of more targeted warfare, but there was no respite in the fighting on Monday, Reuters reported. "The fighting will continue through 2024," said Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson, Reuters reported. 

Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times that Israel aims to use its recent victories as leverage to address security concerns in the north and potentially extend its military achievements. 

The US has to deal with the presidential election this year and does not want the Middle East to take up too much of its attention from its competition with China and Russia, Sun said. 

Zhu pointed out that under the US' guideline of withdrawing from the Middle East, Blinken's trip aims to display the US' diplomatic presence and fulfillment of responsibilities as Israel's ally rather than play a constructive role in mediation. 

Therefore the US and Israel could showcase they have reached some consensus on non-significant topics, but that consensus can hardly have meaningful impact on the overall conflicts raging in the region, Zhu said. 

In the latest sign that the war may be spreading, Israel killed a top commander of Hamas' ally Hezbollah in south Lebanon on Monday. It came after an attack in Beirut last week which killed Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri, for which Israel did not claim responsibility, according to CNN. 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned on Monday that if Hezbollah is not deterred, Israel can "copy-paste" the Gaza war to Beirut. Gallant told media that his country was determined to end Hamas' rule of Gaza and deter other Iran-backed adversaries, Reuters reported. 

Hezbollah has vowed revenge, and analysts believe there will be more rocket launches, but a "large-scale retaliatory assault" is unlikely as it is beyond regional forces' capacity and will.

However, the possibility cannot be ruled out that there might be actions internationalizing the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, Zhu said. 

Caixin services PMI reaches 52.9 in December, demonstrating strong rebound across China's sevice sector

The Caixin services purchasing managers' index (PMI), a private gauge of the country's service sector, rose to 52.9 in December, increasing 1.4 percentage points over the previous month and hitting the highest level in the past five months, according to a private survey released on Thursday.

The index for service activity remains above the expansion-contraction line for consecutive 12 months in 2023, indicating the continuous rebound of the country's service sector, according to the Caixin report.

"It signaled the country's service sector has strong and improved growth momentum at the end of 2023, as the PMI readings have kept going up over time ," read the report, noting that both services supply and demand expanded, as the market continued to recover. The gauges for business activity and total new orders have seen a considerable growth in the past six months.

Meanwhile, companies and entrepreneurs expressed greater optimism over the year-ahead outlook. Employment has also ticked up, the first recorded improvement in past three months, though some firms have maintained cautious approach to hiring.

China’s top anti-graft body to intensify scrutiny in finance, SOEs, healthcare, and more fields

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the National Commission of Supervision (NCS), the country’s top anti-graft body, has pledged to intensify scrutiny in areas including finance, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), healthcare, grain procurement and sale, rural revitalization, tobacco, sports, statistics and more.

Special efforts will be carried out to tackle industrial, systemic and regional corruption cases, and effectively prevent and defuse systemic risks, according to an article released on the CCDI and NCS’ website on Monday.

The article highlighted that in order to decisively win the protracted and tough battle against corruption, it is imperative to consistently maintain a “high-pressure stance” and never relent in the determination to punish wrongdoing.

According to a five-year work plan of the Central Anti-Corruption Coordination Group from 2023 to 2027, the anti-corruption work will be further expanded to the primary level, with harsh punishments for misconduct including embezzlement, illegal possession and misappropriation, as well as ways to solicit bribes.

A total of 405,000 officials at all levels were punished over the first nine months of 2023, of whom 34 of were senior officials at provincial or ministerial levels, per data from the CCDI and NCS.

In recent years, the financial sector has been a focal point for anti-corruption efforts. In 2023, at least 101 individuals in the financial field were put under investigation, according to media reports.

Notably, the list includes senior officials like Liu Liange, former Party chief and president of the Bank of China, Zhou Qingyu, a former vice president of China Development Bank, and Li Xiaopeng, former Party chief and chairman of China Everbright Group.

Out of the 101 individuals under investigation, 74 are from the banking sector, 12 from regulatory authorities, seven from insurance institutions, two from financial groups, one from a securities institution, and five from other financial organizations, domestic news site reported.

The high-intensity anti-corruption campaign continues into the beginning of 2024, with the latest busted case involving Wang Yongsheng, former deputy president of China Development Bank, who was expelled from the CPC for severe violations of Party discipline and the law, the country's top anti-graft body said on Friday.

Mascot for Spring Festival Gala released, showing Chinese cultural connotations

Named Long Chenchen, or the "dragon of Chenchen," the mascot for China's upcoming Dragon Spring Festival Gala has been released, with a lot of design details showing the aesthetics of Chinese cultural elements. 

To celebrate 2024, which will be the Year of the Dragon in Chinese culture, "Long Chenchen" has been designed as a cute yet lively dragon, colored orange and red and with a pair of doll eyes. 

The seemingly cute-looking dragon takes inspiration from Chinese archaeological discoveries. The design of its nose was inspired by a dragon shaped jade item that was discovered in the Erlitou Ruins, a major site in Luoyang, Central China's Henan province that witnessed the rise and fall of the Xia (c.2070BC-c.1600BC) and Shang (c.1600BC-1046BC) dynasties. 

The fire shape pattern on its shoulder was inspired by a bronze piece with cloud patterns that dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC). 

The bronze piece has 12 vividly depicted dragon sculptures, showing ancient Chinese creativity as well as skill for handicrafts. 

Another source of inspiration was a gilded dragon sculpture that is currently in the Xi'an Museum. 

The dragon mascot has been praised by netizens on China's social media platforms such as Sina Weibo. Some said Chenchen looks "amiable" and can bring more international visitors to see the profound yet adorable Chinese culture. 

"I like this cartoon version of a dragon, as it is amiable and friendly. Those characteristics also represent the modern China," a netizen posted on Sina Weibo. 

Despite receiving many likes, the mascot has also sparked criticism. It has four claws, some of which have five toes and others have three. This made some netizens speculate the dragon character might have been synthesized by artificial intelligence.

"The Spring Festival Gala is the gala of the year for all of us in China. It deserves a professional team to design a character for it," one netizen wrote. 

On Thursday morning, China Media Group (CMG), the media platform that is going to be in charge of the gala, officially declared on Sina Weibo that the dragon mascot was created entirely by human beings but not AI.

Admitting that it has some "imperfections," CMG said that it was created by designers "one stroke after another." All the details about the dragon, including its patterns, colors and face have been revised by designers through many versions. 

Along with such verbal explanations, a short video showing the design team working on the mascot has been posted on Sina Weibo by CMG. The media group's response to the character's design has become a trending topic on Sina Weibo and has been viewed by more than 200 million netizens. 

"Whether it was created by AI or human beings, I think the mascot has successfully delivered the spirit of the dragon. The dragon is important to show the life-force of Chinese culture," one netizen posted on Sina Weibo. 

JN.1 will bring more COVID-19 infections, but won't seriously worsen current situation: experts

The latest COVID-19 variant JN.1 is spreading around the world, leading to growing concerns in Chinese society, following a recent severe wave of respiratory infections. Chinese experts estimate that the variant will cause more infections in the near future, but it is not likely to seriously worsen the current situation.

Named JN.1, this variant was first identified in Luxembourg, before spreading to the UK, Iceland, France, and the US.

By the end of October, JN.1 made up less than 0.1 percent of SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the US. But as of December 8, 2023, the ratio climbed to 15-29 percent, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The US estimated that COVID-19 infections are likely to increase in the next month.

Data in the UK also suggested that the variant is spreading more than every other known strain, making up one in 13 cases in England last month.

The JN.1 variant is part of the BA.2.86 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with an additional L455S mutation in the RBD region. Early studies have shown that BA.2.86 has similar immune escape capabilities as the XBB variants. However, recent research has found that the L455S mutation in the JN.1 variant further enhances its immune evasion ability, allowing it to partially escape the humoral immune response induced by XBB.1.5 breakthrough infections, Lu Hongzhou, head of the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

According to current research, BA.2.86, first identified in August 2023, carries more than 30 mutations in the spike (S) protein compared to the XBB and BA.2 variants, indicating high potential for immune evasion.

Another name of JN.1 is BA. and there is only a single change between JN.1 and BA.2.86 in the spike protein, according to current research.

A recent study by Japanese scientists published on bioRxiv on December 8 evaluated the virological characteristics of the omicron subvariant JN.1, which shows robust immune evasion ability compared to other variants. This could be due to the acquisition of the L455S mutation in the spike protein. The study noted that JN.1 has the ability to become a dominant variant worldwide in the future.

But so far, there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health compared to other variants, according to the US CDC.

Currently, the XBB variant of COVID-19 is still the main strain of the local infections in China. Many clinical doctors told the media that they had witnessed an increase in COVID-19 infections recently and they predicted this wave of infections will last till late January 2024 with mortality and severe illness rates likely to increase.

"Since December last year, SARS-CoV-2 has been co-circulating with other respiratory pathogens in China, leading to many domestic residents in the country having experienced two or even three infections. Existing research data indicates that such infection experiences can generate strong and broad-spectrum neutralizing antibodies against different subvariants of Omicron. Furthermore, although JN.1 has increased immune escape ability, there is currently no evidence to suggest an increase in the pathogenicity of the JN.1 variant," Lu explained.

"Therefore, we speculate that the future prevalence of JN.1 in our country may temporarily increase the number of COVID-19 patients and burden hospitals, but it will not significantly worsen the ongoing respiratory disease outbreaks," he said.

Lu reiterated the necessity of vaccination as it is an effective method to improve the speed and intensity of antibody production, providing better protection for the body.

Authorities in multiple cities across China such as Shanghai and Tianjin have sent notices to advise local residents to take COVID-19 vaccines targeting the XBB variant, urging eligible individuals to get the vaccine in a timely manner to enhance their protection against the virus.

New Year’s Day holidays see spike in train ticket booking as residents embrace winter travel craze

Train tickets for the first day of the upcoming New Year's Day holidays went on sale on Saturday, with some popular routes sold out within seconds, data from online travel platforms showed.

As of 10 am, multiple train services departing from Beijing to cities of Zhengzhou and Wuhan, from Nanjing to Hefei and Hangzhou, among others, were already sold out. Notably, tickets for several popular routes were sold out within seconds, Tongcheng Travel Holdings said in a statement it sent to the Global Times.

This year's New Year's Day holidays extends from December 30, 2023, to January 1, 2024.

According to an analysis by the Tongcheng Research Institute, the combination of family visits and tourism during the upcoming holidays, coupled with the popularity of "ice and snow" tourism, is expected to increase traffic on high-speed rail routes from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Zhengzhou to popular winter destinations including Harbin, Shenyang, Urumqi, and Hulun Buir.

Additionally, there is anticipated high demand for dedicated "ski trains" from Beijing to Zhangjiakou in North China's Hebei Province during the holiday period, Tongcheng said.

An earlier report released by Tongcheng showed that travel enthusiasm for the New Year's Day holidays has seen a year-on-year increase of 465 percent in the seven days leading up to Monday.

In addition, higher hotel booking volumes for the New Year's Eve were observed in cities like Harbin, Nanjing, Wuhan, Shanghai, and Beijing, travel platform Qunar said in a statement it sent to the Global Times on Saturday.

Over the past few days, many travelers have already begun making reservations for tickets through third-party platforms. As of Friday, the pre-booked travel orders for 2024 New Year's Day holidays' train tickets have shown a remarkable 194-percent year-on-year increase compared to the same period last year, according to data from the online travel agency

With the holidays approaching and the "ice and snow" tourism season gaining momentum, enthusiasm for travel remains unabated despite falling temperatures, promising to further stimulate consumption growth, experts said.

A Beijing resident surnamed Yao told the Global Times that he had booked tickets for his family to Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The primary purpose is to visit his parents at home, and additionally, they plan to take their four-year-old son to the Harbin Ice-Snow World. He said that this would be his son's first visit to the theme park, with the entire family eagerly anticipating the trip.

Another Beijing-resident surnamed Fu said that she plans to go skiing in Zhangjiakou with her friends during the upcoming holiday. "Skiing, hot springs, and gourmet food will be the three main themes of our trip," Fu told the Global Times.

The New Year's Day holidays is a traditional golden season for consumption. Meanwhile, it is the first complete winter consumption season after the pandemic, and it is expected to extend retail spending momentum of consumption in the year, driving a spike in winter-themed spending, Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times on Saturday.

Per data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday, the service industry experienced rapid growth in November, as year-on-year growth of the national service industry production index came in at 9.3 percent, accelerating 1.6 percentage points compared to the previous month.

Breaking down by industry, the production index of the accommodation and catering industry increased by 30.6 percent year-on-year, showing a 9.3 percentage point acceleration compared to the previous month.

Total retail sales of consumer goods reached 4.25 trillion yuan in the month, representing a year-on-year growth of 10.1 percent, accelerating by 2.5 percentage points compared to October, NBS data showed.

In recent years, the "ice and snow" consumption season has been rapidly growing across China, especially in the northern regions. It typically kicks off in winter and extends through to the following spring, Zhang said.

China's "ice and snow" consumption market has now developed a relatively complete consumer ecosystem, including tourism, sports, related equipment, and culture, he said, noting that compared to summer consumption, the development of "ice and snow" consumption has only recently gained steam but it possesses strong potential for future growth.