i got my first covid-19 vaccine in shenzhen

In Shenzhen, mobilization to get people tested for covid-19 continues, as does pressure to get vaccinated. Everything is online and seemingly streamlined–from registering, to getting an appointment, to having the information pop up on your cellphone covid-app. And it works, until it doesn’t.

If my experience is typical, foreigners haven’t been completely integrated into the program, but we’re not completely outside it either. Getting an appointment for my first shot was difficult to do from my cellphone, and so I used a Chinese citizen’s cellphone to successfully make the appointment. When I arrived at the station, my information was in the system, and after I had the shot, I was given a proof of first shot document. However, unlike my Chinese friends, the information has not appeared on my cellphone covid health status app. Instead, I was told to register for the Guangdong Province app (粤康码). However, I couldn’t register because the app doesn’t accept foreign passports as forms of ID. It does, however, accept IDs from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

I’m not sure how this will or will not effect my mobility within Guangdong specifically and China more generally. For the past year and a half, I have been using my Shenzhen app (深i您) to navigate the city. While in Dali over Chinese New Year, I successfully registered for the Yunnan Provincial covid health status app. However, as of June 6, Shenzhen metro announced that at major transit stations, including Luohu, Buji, Shenzhen North, Futian, Airport, Zhuzilin and Shekou Port would require the Guangdong provincial app in order to pass through. Today, beginning at noon, to exit the city on a plane from Shenzhen airport requires an unspecified “green health card” and a viable covid-19 test (within 72 hours). Presumably, my Shenzhen app will work at the airport.

Plane and train passengers are being monitored. Still no word about bus passengers, or how or if passengers on private cars are being regulated. Meanwhile, the city is mobilizing vaccinations and making testing sites available, even as businesses remain open. Even our small housing estate has increased surveillance, requiring people to wear masks and take their temperature to enter the compound. Fortunately, the security guards recognize me and so the reminders are, in fact, gentle. Not so much for unrecognized faces, when they aren’t masked. That said, as soon as residents enter the compound, most take their masks off. Indeed, as far as I can tell, at the moment masking, testing, and monitoring are intensifying at the official level, but not so much in commercial and private spaces.

Yesterday evening I went for a walk along the Shekou coastline. The Shenzhen Bay western corridor bridge stretches from Nanshan to Yuen Long, presumably furthering Shen Kong integration. However, as I sat, drinking my water and people watching, I only saw one passenger bus and several cars pass. Otherwise, the only vehicles using the bridge were trucks hauling containers or returning to the mainland to pick up another container. Admittedly, my rest was only 15 minutes. But.

The difference between the present moment and two years ago, when busses crossed the bridge every ten minutes in both directions was striking. Taxis and private cars constantly moved back and forth. The situation on the bridge seems illustrative of the difference between how institutional connections and individual mobility are being managed. Goods are passing back and forth, but people, not so much. And our shrinking space bubbles, which are defined on apps that we may or may not be able to use, make salient how vulnerable we are, not to viruses per se, but to the protocols that are transforming an invisible virus into data that can be managed, operationalized, and ultimately used to justify new forms of social inclusion and exclusion.

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