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Two Meituan delivery drivers wait for delivery orders on Feb. 4, 2020. (Image credit: TechNode/ Shi Jiayi)

After months of lockdowns and upheaval, China is slowly settling back into something resembling normalcy. Companies are allowing their employees to work from their offices, restaurants and shops have reopened, and people have once again begun taking trips around the country.

TechNode is tracking the move back to normalcy. We will update and add to this page every week to reflect the country’s attempts to move from control of the virus to recovery.

Published on: April 13, 2020
Updated on: July 27, 2020

Since mid-March, the center of the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted away from China. According to official numbers, the country has seen declining rates of infection. The government has since barred almost all foreign nationals from entering the country to prevent secondary outbreaks from imported cases.

As the number of locally transmitted cases in China decreases, shops and restaurants have begun resuming operations as the country gets back to normalcy. All of Apple’s stores in China have reopened after closing their doors at the height of the outbreak. Around 90% of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s retail stores have reopened, a company spokesperson told TechNode. Meanwhile, 436 of beverage giant Heyteas’s stores have opened to the public.

Cinemas also opened, albeit briefly. In mid-March China began opening its cinemas for the first time since January. Nearly 500 cinemas reopened between March 20 and March 22. Just days later, managers of these venues were asked to shut their doors once again. The shuttering was reportedly due to a spate of local transmissions in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

Meanwhile, China’s tourism industry is showing signs of life, with major online travel agencies beginning presale bookings for April and May holidays at the beginning of March. Chinese travelers made more than 43 million domestic trips over the Tomb Sweeping holiday between April 4 and April 6.

While traffic in Shanghai has not reached 2019 levels, the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has seen a marked increase in cars on its roads since late February. Similarly, Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, has reached pre-Covid-19 levels. The city saw a peak in traffic on April 3, coinciding with the start of the Tomb Sweeping holiday.

January and February are a peak travel period in China, in which the largest human migration in the world takes place. This year, however, rail travel dropped off significantly compared to previous years. In February, railway traffic dropped nearly 90% compared to 2019. The decline came as governments around the country imposed lockdowns, and residents were encouraged to stay at home. March and April saw millions more people traveling across the country, in part, due to a national holiday.

Similarly, industrial production took a hit as factories were forced to close to limit the spread of the disease. Growth slumped to -13.5% in February, compared to 5% a year earlier. Apart from the extended Spring Festival holiday, some factory workers were unable to return to work due to draconian travel restrictions the Chinese government put in place. Production showed signs of recovery in March and reached near pre-coronavirus levels in April.

China’s tech sector has since taken a significant hit. VC investments in the industry shrunk significantly compared to the same time last year, according to data from Itjuzi. Total funding in Q1 totaled RMB 119.1 billion, down 31% from RMB 173.6 billion a year ago, while the number of deals shrunk by half.

Meanwhile, China’s struggling electric vehicle (EV) industry showed signs of recovery in March. Deliveries reached 56,000 cars, up from a three year low of 11,000 in February. Some of the country’s biggest EV makers have been hardest hit by the virus, with BYD, BAIC, and Geely seeing their February sales plummet by up to two-thirds compared to the same time last year.

China’s biggest tech companies saw their share prices plummet during the Covid-19 outbreak. Stock prices fell to a low in mid-March but have since shown signs of recovery. Currently, Tencent, Meituan, Alibaba, and Xiaomi are trading above pre-Covid-19 prices. Meituan’s share price surged at the end of May after reporting its quarterly earnings.

Graphics, data analysis, and text by Chris Udemans and Shuyao Jia