The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics have come and gone with neither a bang, nor even a whisper. Whatever officials hoped to gain from the spectacle of Chinese athletes winning gold on snow and ice didn’t manifest. Even in my more nationalistic we chat groups, I saw few posts about the Olympics even during the games, and now that they’re over, no one has mentioned them. Instead, three topics obsess people across my we chat groups–the upsurge of Covid in Shenzhen, the Xuzhou mother, and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Moreover, as the above cartoon illustrates, how these issues are stitched together reveals social fault lines.
The cartoon reads: (upper frame) Bold opinions. Throughout the Russian Ukrainian war, Ukraine has overestimated its strength; a small, poor country has no diplomatic means. In a word: attack! (lower frame) Don’t discuss national affairs. I don’t know, I don’t care, I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t talk about politics.
The use of the character 打! in the upper frame is particularly revealing. 打 means to fight, but also to beat as a punishment. There is an acceptance, even shadenfreude 幸灾乐祸 about the weak being beaten for being weak. Then, in the lower frame, when the man who advocated Russia beating Ukraine (because they are small and because they are poor) is shown a picture of the Xuzhou mother, he turns away and refuses to engage the problem. What’s more, it’s possible to imagine him in another context (in Xuzhou, for example) agreeing with the decision to chain up a purchased “wife” because what else is to be done with a crazy woman?
The way these issues are and are not being talked about in We Chat circles and on weibo forums run alongside discussions of the Covid upsurge in Hong Kong and its relation to the current “war time situation” management of Covid in Shenzhen. Those who believe that beating Ukraine is understandable, are also calling for strong punishments against those who brought Covid in from Hong Kong. In contrast, those who oppose Russia’s actions are still trying to call attention to the Xuzhou situation, and don’t (at least online) blame Hong Kong for the lockdowns and empty markets in Shenzhen.
Scary times, indeed. The escalation of Covid management overlaps with the refusal to publicly deal with egregious human-trafficking conflates with a desire to beat the unruly into submission. Politics without people, but oh so many bodies left behind. Below, are two stills from a video circulating on We Chat: