BEIJING－For many foreigners living in China’s capital city, the Sanyuanli Market is a unique cure for their homesickness.
With all kinds of imported food products such as French cheese, Maghreb couscous and vegetables popular with Western families, the market meets the needs of foreign residents searching for a taste of home.
The market’s success has mainly been attributed to China’s opening up in recent decades, during which trade between China and the rest of the world has not only remarkably altered people’s lifestyles but also tremendously boosted the global economy.
Before returning to her hometown of Toulouse, France, two years ago, Estelle Garneau had lived in Beijing for five years.
Recalling her life in the country, Garneau said visiting the Sanyuanli Market almost every week is part of her most delightful memories of her time in China.
“It’s a market where you can find ingredients from all over the world,” she said, adding the market allowed her to taste the flavors of her country and discover more from other cuisines.
Opened in the early 1990s, the market is located in one of Beijing’s most international areas near the embassy district.
Yuan Meirong, 45, is one of the market’s earliest business owners and she has run a grocery specializing in imported dairy products in the market for almost 20 years.
“Half of our customers are foreigners and some of them have become our friends,” said Yuan, adding that cheese imported from Europe is one of her best-selling products.
According to government data, by the end of 2018, the number of overseas institutions in Beijing had reached 37,000, with a total of 142,000 foreign residents.
The unexpected COVID-19 outbreak interrupted operations for many sellers.
This year has not been an easy one for Zhang Mei, for instance, a fishmonger who started her business in the market in 1998.
In June, several confirmed cases linked to imported seafood forced Zhang’s stall to close for a week. Compared to last year, the turnover of Zhang’s business fell by over 50 percent during the first half of this year.
Since mid-July, business in the Sanyuanli Market has started to regain momentum, raising the hopes of Zhang.
“Thanks to everyone’s efforts, the epidemic is under better control, and we can get back to our businesses,” Zhang said. “Many of our foreign customers have returned to Beijing after the borders reopened and our business has picked up, although summer is normally the off-season.”
This revival is emblematic of China’s economic recovery from the adverse impacts of the pandemic, which has infected millions of people and claimed more than 810,000 lives worldwide.
The country’s gross domestic product expanded 3.2 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
Martin Raiser, World Bank country director for China, said the country’s economic rebound was better than expected in light of the pandemic.
“It is indeed higher than what we had projected back in June when we released our Global Economic Prospects report, and we have upgraded our forecast accordingly,” said Raiser.
Noting the pandemic previously impaired business confidence in China, Alicia Garcia Herero, chief economist for Asia at Paris-based investment bank NATIXIS, highlighted the resilience of the Chinese economy.
“China has shown great resilience over the coronavirus outbreak and is among the first major economies to recover,” said Herero, who is also a senior research fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank.
Sylwester Szafarz, former consul general of Poland in Shanghai, said China’s economic recovery has brought confidence in the recovery of the world economy amid both the pandemic and a tough global recession.
The country became the first major economy to resume growth since the outbreak of the epidemic, Szafarz said, adding “this will play a positive role in the reconstruction of the world economy in the post-epidemic era.”
Even though the pandemic has stoked anti-globalization sentiment and fueled protectionism across the world, China has never wavered in its resolve to build an open economy.
“The most important part of the Chinese economic policy today, in my view, is the commitment of the government to widening the door to the world, despite the difficulty arising from the coronavirus crisis,” said Rudolf Minsch, chief economist at Swiss national business federation Economiesuisse.
In addition to helping achieve a swift economic recovery, China’s commitment to an open economy has injected fresh impetus into the struggling global economy.
During the January-June period, ASEAN remained China’s largest trading partner, with trade up 5.6 percent year-on-year, accounting for 14.7 percent of China’s total foreign trade.
Wellian Wiranto, an economist at OCBC Bank, said China’s economic growth is likely to benefit Southeast Asian nations as the country commands the “lion’s share” of regional exports. The uptick would rekindle hopes that China’s economy can help to pull others along, Wiranto said.