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China’s Reopening Is the Boost the Flagging World Economy Needs

The easing of Covid restrictions will unleash pent-up demand for commodities, consumer goods and travel.

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The 269 passengers on China’s first direct flight to Thailand since the end of Covid Zero restrictions got an extra-special welcome when they disembarked in Bangkok from Xiamen on Jan. 9. The country’s deputy prime minister showed up to present them with orchid bracelets. There was good reason for the warm welcome: Thailand expects 7 million to 10 million Chinese travelers to arrive by air this year and hopes their spending will help power an economic recovery.

Around the world, economies that rely on tourism and commodities are set to receive a shot from China’s sudden reopening, as consumers unleash some of the 5.6 trillion yuan ($836 billion) in excess savings they built up during the pandemic. Demand for air travel, hotels and spots at foreign schools and universities will light up as Chinese pack their bags for international travel for the first time since Covid-19 struck. Thailand attracted around 11.5 million foreign visitors last year—way down from the 40 million who visited in 2019, before the pandemic, when almost a quarter were from China. While Thailand and other tourism-heavy nations in Southeast Asia like Singapore and Vietnam will likely be the first to benefit, developed economies including Japan and the UK will also get a lift.