Despite the impact of COVID-19 wearing off, the everyday life of Chinese people after the quarantine is vastly different from before. Recently, China’s biggest search engine Baidu released a report based on big data revealing the hottest searches after Wuhan reopened. From the remaining misgivings to business ideas, the searches illustrate the far-reaching impact of the epidemic in multiple aspects: economy, culture and lifestyle.
Awareness of “asymptomatic carriers” rises
An “asymptomatic carrier” usually refers to a person that has become infected with COVID-19, but displays no signs or symptoms. As people crowded the streets again after the month-long quarantine, the scare is not completely gone. Wearing masks and disinfection are still common practices in China.
Popular searches around the key word “asymptomatic carriers” include: “What does asymptomatic infection mean?”, “Does an asymptomatic person need treatment?” and “Infectiousness of asymptomatic carriers”. Search engines are becoming more of a public platform where citizens educate themselves and get updates about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hubei delicacies become the new “it items”
As Hubei, the epicenter of COVID-19, suffered the most economically from its radical lockdown measures, media, influencers and netizens across China started to promote specialty Hubei products to support the province. Known for its “guo zao” culture, which literally means “spend the morning”, Hubei boasts various delicacies that are usually served as breakfast.
Among the delicacies, hot dry noodles, a Wuhan staple noodle seasoned with sesame paste, are the most popular. According to Baidu, the search popularity of “hot dry noodles” increased 159% week-over-week. The top location for these searches was Guangdong, another province known for its profound breakfast culture of “Dim Sum”.
Other popular delicacies include Hubei’s common street food Dou Pi, which is a rice filling stuffed between an egg pancake and served with pork, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. People search these items not only out of curiosity, but so they can purchase them to support Hubei’s local businesses.
Now that we are recovering, what happens abroad?
One the of most drastic surge in searches was “British Prime Minister”. As the entire globe got hit by the pandemic, Chinese netizens kept up with news about COVID-19. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became a hot topic of interest after he tested positive for the virus around March 24, while searches of him peaked on April 8 as media reported his condition was improving.
Chinese Netizens also search by country to know about the pandemic. Among all the countries, “Outbreak in the US” was the most popular search, and is still gaining more steam in mid-April. In comparison, “Outbreak in India” increased by 156% in early April while “Outbreak in Italy” dropped 54%.
Crisis as an opportunity
Despite the obvious economic loss, the younger generation in China seems determined not to “let the good crisis go to waste”. As shown by Baidu’s report, search popularity of “What’s a good business to start” increased by 879% year-on-year. Among the searches, 55% came from people born after 1990.
If you search “What’s a good business to start” in Baidu, you will see numerous forums, bulletins and webpages dedicated to business ideas for young people. In the forums, popular options include e-commerce, logistics, and restaurants — all focused on the service industry. Given the popular search results, we will likely witness a “startup boom” not long after the pandemic.
Reopened restaurants faced with scrutiny over prices
Restaurants had a hard time during the quarantine because people were held up in their homes. But the quarantine also hyped some restaurants up, including China’s most famous hot pot chain Haidilao. After a desolate Spring Festival, “Haidilao dinner party with friends” became the biggest expectation and a social media trend as people come out of the quarantine period.
Therefore, when news came out about Haidilao’s price inflation, netizens became furious towards their beloved hot pot chain trying to compensate the loss in this radical way. “Haidilao price hike” became one of the most-searched items on April 6 and April 7.
The outbreak has been tough economically, but not only for restaurant owners. Based on the fact that searches like “McDonald’s coupons” significantly increased, customers seem to be more price-sensitive as normal life resumes. After restaurants survive the COVID-19 outbreak, they might face more challenges as customers more closely scrutinize their finances.