Each year the Chinese infrastructure system gets a good run for its money when the population sets off for its Labour Day Golden Week holidays. It’s the point in the year when everyone gets to go home. Of course, going home in China can often mean a rather formidable trek across some fairly intimidating landscape. Hopping onto the equivalent of the M6 to shoot up north is not an option.
In fact, hopping anywhere in China during Golden Week is a bit of a non-starter. Most families have got more chance of an argument free year than getting home quickly. And there’s a reason the holiday is a week. Any shorter and you’d be heading back to your place of residence before you’d arrived for the family festivities.
This particular holiday is actually fairly new. It was introduced in 1999 by some bright spark who saw the commercial benefits stemming from a boost in domestic travel and spending. On that front they were on the money. According to today’s chinanews.com, last week’s holiday period saw the masses blow 64.2 billion yuan (US$$8.56 billion) on travels and goodies for the kids. Good for the airlines, but lets not dwell on the fact that shutting the country down for a week or so probably puts a bit of a dent in its industrial and business performance. Such pickiness would only spoil the party.
Of course, moving nearly a quarter of a billion people around one country in less than 48 hours has its challenges. Not least of which is the pressure it puts on the country’s transport network. The Chinese Government has been known to do some strange things in the interests of public streamlining in the past. Well it now seems as if last week’s national get together was the last straw for lovers of uber-efficiency. News from the National People’s Party HQ this morning suggests that the government is giving serious consideration to putting the brakes on the annual family get together. Labour Day Golden Week could soon be off the holiday podium.
Quite what the reaction to this announcement will be is anyone’s guess. It wasn’t that long ago when the masses would have begrudgingly accepted the proposed changes and moved on. Nowadays of course, there are 140 million online advocates with a voice and an opinion. I can’t imagine they’ll lie down quietly.
To give you a perspective on this whole affair, binning Golden Week on the grounds of infrastructure issues is akin to telling the kids that Christmas is cancelled because the chimney is looking a little wobbly. It doesn’t matter how many gifts and goodies you promise for the rest of the year, things are never quite the same when they’re amortised over the course of 365 days. I’ve often wondered why Royalty has always gone for two birthdays each year. They must realise by now that you get better presents in one hit, than you do separately. Perhaps they have all the presents they need.
But I digress. Like so many other things in the fast and furious world of China, killing Golden Week might prove a little more tricky now that it would have been a few years back. So it will be interesting to see how the masses react. This story could be with us for a few days yet.
One thing’s for sure though, you’re unlikely to see a similar push for a consolidation of holidays in the West right now. With the UK, Australian and US media still chattering about impending elections of one form or another, cancelling the annual family get together would be about as popular as invading another Middle Eastern country. But stranger things have happened.