Fiona Wang prepared for a week of relaxation among palm fronds, golden sand beaches and swimming pools at the Atlantis Sanya, a tropical resort on Hainan Island in southern China.
Instead, the Beijing mother of three young children found herself stuck in the hotel for the past two weeks, begging local authorities for a flight out of Hainan as she ran out of powdered milk for a 13-month-old .
Wang was one of 150,000 vacationers stranded this month on the island known as the “Hawaii of China,” the latest in an ongoing series of localized lockdowns and mass testing campaigns imposed under the controversial zero- President Xi Jinping’s Covid.
“We have such a big family here,” she said. “We were so anxious and worried that we couldn’t go home.”
Analysts said the Hainan blockade highlighted the risks of travel to China, damaging confidence in the world’s biggest consumer market and fueling doubts about Beijing’s hopes for an early recovery economy slowed by the pandemic.
“Hainan is signaling that you are not safe anywhere,” said Alicia García-Herrero, chief Asia-Pacific economist at French bank Natixis.
“It can happen when I go to Ikea in Shanghai, when I go to Hainan, when I go to the office,” García-Herrero said, referring to chaotic scenes during a recent quick closing at an outlet of the furniture retailer for at home in Shanghai. .
Any further blow to domestic mobility and discretionary spending in China will cause headaches for Beijing’s economic planners.
The Xi administration had relied on the services sector to help it meet a 2022 gross domestic product growth target of 5.5 percent, despite massive lockdowns in Shanghai and other major cities this year that brought the ‘economy on the brink of recession.
But official statistics in July showed retail sales, a key indicator of consumption, rose just 2.7 percent year-on-year, falling short of the 5 percent forecast.
Raymond Yeung, chief China economist at Australian bank ANZ, warned that the Hainan episode would contribute to further erosion of consumer confidence, likely undermining Beijing’s plans for pent-up demand to spur growth.
“Now, even if you ask people to go, they just don’t have the appetite to go anywhere . . . it’s becoming a demand issue,” Yeung said.
The outbreak in Hainan brought China’s national count of Covid-19 infections to more than 3,400 on Thursday, a three-month high but well below levels in many countries that have lifted most pandemic restrictions.
Others have a different view.
Flora Zhu, a Beijing-based analyst at Fitch Ratings, said that while the outbreaks in Hainan could affect people’s willingness to travel long distances in the short term, she expected “sentiment to recover quickly once the situation stabilizes” and to “spend in the short term”. -trips and local trips to continue growing”.
Hainan’s lockdown also exposed growing public frustration with the government and a sense of hopelessness as zero-Covid policies show no signs of ending.
Tianlei Huang, a researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics think tank, noted that the lockdown had affected more than 1 million residents and said the zero-Covid policy was being “clumsily executed” .
Jenna Lively, an American resident of Beijing, was one of many who made unsuccessful attempts to flee the island before the network was shut down.
Two days after he arrived, he was informed that his accommodation was being “turned into a quarantine hotel”, he said.
“When we started to realize that the situation was getting worse, we moved our flights . . . and yet on the way to the airport, the road was closed. We were stuck on the highway, unable to get back to the “hotel and not being able to go to the airport”. Their group was later sent by the police to another hotel, from which they have not been able to leave.
In the fishing village of Houhai Bay, a surf coach who asked to be identified as Xiaoyue said the lockdown had come as a shock to locals who had previously seen the pandemic as a problem confined to the big cities of the china
“We weren’t ready,” the 32-year-old said. “We didn’t stock up on groceries and the street markets were abruptly closed.”
Although officials had arranged designated grocery shopping and collection points within three days, Xiaoyue remains worried that her six-year-old daughter’s start at a local primary school will be delayed.
The government sent Sun Chunlan, the vice president responsible for leading the zero-Covid campaign, to Hainan after small-scale protests broke out in hotels on the island.
Separately, in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen, officials are slaughtering fish caught by commercial fishermen for Covid-19, prompting public jibes about how far authorities will go in their efforts to stamp out the virus .
Any signs of social instability will be particularly worrying for Beijing in the coming months as China’s ruling Communist Party prepares for a congress in which Xi is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as leader.
Wang, the mother from Beijing, and her children boarded a flight back to the Chinese capital on Friday, two weeks after their ordeal began.
However, reflecting her desperation last week, she took to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, and asked Beijing officials for help.
“We can’t complain, we have to tell the government our demands,” he said. “For now you can only rely on the government, as you cannot solve the problem on your own.”
Additional reporting by Emma Zhou in Beijing