Traveling in China – It’s Clear – The Economy Is Worse Than Reported

In 2021 and 2022, China was touted as an example to the rest of the world of how an economy can shut down and still prosper. BBC Business, like many others, suggested that China’s shut down was the foundation for a quicker recovery, reporting in April 2021, “Helped by strict virus containment measures and emergency relief for businesses, the economy has recovered steadily since the pandemic hit.”

NBC News went even harder, reporting in September 2020, “Chinese officials announced this week that the country’s economy grew by 4.9 percent in the third quarter, a positive sign from the initial Covid-19 epicenter. Some of the rebound in the world’s second-largest economy is due to containment measures that would be hard to replicate or enforce in a democracy — but there are still lessons the United States can learn.”

Now in 2024, we are discovering that the reports of an economic recovery were not true at all. BTJ missionaries have been reporting on the situation from China for the last couple of years and many of the reports that we shared were in direct contradiction to the mainstream media.

As soon as China launched targeted attacks on Christians in 2019, the economic situation began to take a downturn. In 2020, the world was hit by a pandemic that originated in China. The CCP worked very hard to control the narrative, by implementing extreme measures including welding the doors of their citizens shut!

In 2023, I spent time in China’s southern Guangdong Province, the first location of China’s Special Economic Zone where the economic boom has been rocketing straight up for the last three decades. This was the first location in China to really implement free market strategies, similar to what was enjoyed in Hong Kong. The economy grew so fast, that China had to limit access to the area, setting up check points along the roads leading into cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

In 2023, the once booming cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen were barely recognizable. The shopping centers which once hosted cross-border shoppers were closed. It felt eery, but it was understandable. After being locked up for years, it was never expected just to open back up and return back to its former glory in a matter of days.

I also traveled to Guilin, home to one of the first tourist destinations open to foreigners in the 1990s. If there was going to be any place where foreign investment would return, it would be in Guilin, but no luck there either. I walked one of the largest malls in the city and even on a Friday night, it was a ghost town. I had dinner with several BTJ missionaries and we were the only customers in the entire restaurant.

In the last year, I have spent time with our team in Beijing. The streets of Wang Fujing (a place where I spent a lot of time when I attended the Language and Culture University in the early 2000s), were a skeleton of their previous glory. Wang Fujing is arguably one of the most well-known tourist attractions for foreigners and is even home to the first McDonald’s in Beijing.

But nothing could have prepared me for what I am seeing today in Shanghai. One of the locations where I have spent a lot of time is Qibao in Shanghai. I have often chosen Qibao district for BTJ meetings, because it is close to the Hongqiao airport, has a major metro station, has several house churches, and has immediate access to everything one needs without having to go all the way to The Bund.

As we drove into Qibao, my first time since the pandemic, I was blown away by the miles and miles of empty shopping centers that were not just vacant, but were boarded up with barriers. I thought the area was under some kind of construction, because even the walk ways were closed, but no. “The shops have all closed up,” Sarah (not her real name) shares. “They all closed down during Covid-19 and were not allowed to open up for almost three years. Now that China has opened back up, those shop owners are all gone.”

Qibao is part of the Minhang district of Shanghai, which has about 2.6 million residents. With its central location and extremely dense population, it is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ to partially gauge China’s economy and what it shows is that China is in a much worse shape than anyone in the news has been reporting.

The Chinese economy isn’t heading for a crisis. It is already in the middle of one.

 

Dr. Eugene Bach is a known trouble-maker with an active imagination and sinful past. He has a PhD, but is not a real doctor, so please do not call for him during a medical emergency on an airplane when someone is having a heart attack. Eugene started working for Back to Jerusalem in the year 2000 after a backroom deal involving Chinese spies, the NRA, Swiss bankers, and a small group of Apostolic Christians that only baptize in Jesus’ name. He spends most of his time in closed countries attempting to topple governments by proclaiming the name of Jesus and not taking showers. From time-to-time he pretends to be a writer. He is not good at it, but everyone around him tries to humor him.

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