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BLOG: Chinese to celebrate 2021 CNY away from home

Home is where parents are in the Chinese culture. But for this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations, many Chinese working in cities or in other countries away from their places of birth will probably have to bear the separation from their parents for CNY for the first time this year, and all for a common reason – the COVID-19 virus. For the unluckier ones, this might even be the second time they’ll miss their annual family get-together.

The first anniversary of pandemic’s invasion is being remembered around the globe and most Chinese people in or out of China are not traveling back to their home in the mainland China to spend the most important festival in the Chinese culture with their flesh and blood even though China appears to be the only country that has its economy back onto the normal track.

“I have not seen my parents for a whole year because of the pandemic but I will stay where I am for the holiday, instead of going back to my hometown,” a Chinese in Singapore remarked. She wouldn’t be going back to China for the CNY celebrations because of the need to stay in quarantine and because of the extra costs of hotel accommodation, she explained. “Hopefully I can be back soon,” she said.

A Beijinger with home and work both in Beijing, was happy to be freed from the struggling, but at the same time, he had shown empathy for friends who had decided against venturing back to their hometown.

“Beijing is usually a deserted city during the CNY and there are always rows of empty seats if you stroll around parks or take the subway,” he observed. “But this year, I believe the city will still be rather bustling, and most of my friends will be around, so I can just sit here waiting for my friends to ask me out!”

He explained that nobody knew what measures local governments may take to curtail population movement once workers return. “None of my friends know for sure what restrictions they might face when reaching their hometowns, and they are worried that they may end up in a 14-day quarantine – either on the way back to their parents’ house or after returning to Beijing, and the cost in money and time is simply too high,” he said, sympathetically.

A train compartment with CNY decorations, source: Xinhua

Workers opting not to return home this year has been a blessing in disguise where China’s steel industry is concerned, as shorter CNY breaks among the end-users will lead to earlier-than-usual restarts of manufacturing plants such as auto and machinery makers after the break, as well as on construction sites.

For the Chinese steel mills and traders, thus, the dwindling daily steel trading volume in the lead-up to the start of the holiday has evidently caused them little unease, and they have shown little wavering in their resolution to sticking to the steel prices they have been offering.

On February 9, the last full working day before the CNY, China’s HRB400 20mm dia rebar price remained unchanged at Yuan 4,358/tonne ($670.5/t) including the 13% VAT, according to Mysteel’s assessment, and the price has remained resilient since the start of February despite a dearth of deals.

China’s spot steel market has become so eerily quiet that Mysteel has decided not to even bother tracking China’s daily steel trading volume starting February 8, as the daily trading volume of construction steel including rebar, wire rod, and bar-in-coil among the 237 steel trading houses across China had slipped to just 7,502 tonnes/day by February 5, so tiny against the average 100,000 t/d under the normal circumstances.

For January, however, China’s sales of both autos and excavators surged on year, both partially due to the lower base number in January 2020 when the CNY holiday fell on January 24.

Last month, sales of automobiles across China were slightly over 2.5 million, up 29.5% on year, and the country’s vehicle output approximated 2.39 million units, or up 34.6% on year, though both were down 11.6% and 15.9% on month respectively.

“People can’t travel, yet they have bought more cars,” a market analyst joked. “I am wondering what is the use?” he said.

Excavator sales by the country’s 26 makers for both domestic and overseas markets almost doubled last month, jumping by 97.2% on year to 19,601 units, as heavy machinery demand from domestic construction projects has maintained the robust momentum that began since the second quarter of 2020.

A Shanghai-based market source was not at all surprised, however, at the dramatic increase.

“The whole country is constructing some projects – infrastructure or others – and this may continue all the way for the rest of this year,” he said, adding, “for this, construction contractors also need to order excavators earlier too, as many of their workers are just staying in town, and work may resume immediately after the CNY holiday.”

Construction workers would at least expect more pay if they cannot spend a longer CNY break with the families as usual. Many laborers have left their hometowns for bigger cities to earn enough for their families left behind, with money needed for children for education and for parents needing funds to cover daily living and medical bills.

Written by Hongmei Li, li.hongmei@mysteel.com

Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculloch@mysteel.com