May 2022

IZA DP No. 15269: Dual Circulation and Population Mobility during the Pandemic in China

Wang-Sheng Lee, Trang My Tran, Lamont Bo Yu

We use high-frequency data from location-based mobile phone records to measure domestic air travel patterns of the Chinese population during the Covid-19 pandemic. The travel and tourism industry is a key driver of China's domestic economy and data from this industry helps serve as an objective proxy for domestic economic activity during the pandemic. Our results show that except for some periods of intense mobility restrictions, relative to travel patterns in 2019, mobility in fact increased in China from mid-2020 onwards. This increase in domestic air travel is likely due to a combination of factors: China's control and management of the Delta variant, China's new "dual circulation" development paradigm, and a pent-up demand for international travel that is not permitted.