gaslighting 101: shanghai hasn’t reopened because it was never locked down…

That’s what they’re going with? This is a popular gloss on the press conference that didn’t announce that the city had reopened. Instead, government spokespeople performed a master class in gas lighting.

The past two months are being presented as if neighborhood offices acted independently of the municipal government and Sun Chunlan 孙春兰 never came to take charge of the pandemic; and indeed, unlike in Wuhan and Hong Kong, Sun’s tenure in Shanghai was brief and remarkably not lauded. There is no official position on the not-lockdown, which reads like blaming the victim with Chinese characteristics. So to speak.

In response to the blatant buck-passing, testimonial videos about what happened during the lockdown have been posted. In addition, stories about how the Shanghai government has not taken responsibility for the recent lockdown are also circulating. The pleasure of these second category of stories is that they show an actual representative of the Party and government telling the truth. Below I’ve translated one of those stories that I’m calling, “Speechless 无语 in Shanghai.”

Speechless in Shanghai

This message was forwarded to me. Take a look; it left me absolutely speechless.

“Last night after dinner, I walked around my housing estate. I abruptly realized that many estate residents were heading to and then out the gate. Curious, I went followed the flow of people out the gate, where encountered a volunteer. I asked, “Was the gate unsealed this evening? How is it that I can go out to the road?

“His reply caught me up short, saying ‘If you want to go out, you can go out. We never said that the estate was locked down. If you wanted to stay locked down at home, that was your choice. People voluntarily locked down, so there was no need to inform you [that the estate had opened].’

“In the crowd, I then encountered our building grid leader and we chat group head. I asked him why we exit the estate this evening. Had it been reopened? He answered me the same way [as the volunteer]. I asked, ‘If we can leave the estate, why didn’t you send a notice to the building chat group?’

“He replied, ‘the lane [里弄 a traditional Shanghai neighborhood] Secretary told me not to notify the group, because we didn’t lockdown the community and the residents voluntarily stayed at home, so there was no need to send a notice.’

“I asked again. ‘At 2:30 this afternoon during the press conference, didn’t the municipal government say that the city was opened?’

“He replied, ‘As the Party Secretary has said, Shanghai wasn’t locked down. Is it therefore necessary to tell you that it has been opened? Since all the citizens voluntarily stayed at home, the press conference would not announce when the city was reopened.’

“I nearly fainted after hearing to this. After three turbulent months, the government won’t admit that it decided to lockdown the city and is instead blaming the people? What kind of person would actually say this? Is this how the government dismissing the world-shaking event that occurred in Shanghai? I don’t believe the government would say such things. But. I doubt that a minor Party Secretary would dare to speak so unless they had instructions from the top.

“Do you think Shanghai people are stupid?”

这条信息是别人转我的发你看看,真的无语呀(昨天晚上我吃了饭在小区内散步,忽然看见小区里面许多居民都往大门外走出去了,我也好奇,随着人流往外出大门了。我遇到了大门口的志愿者:今天晚上开始解封了吗?怎么可以出大门到马路上去了呢?他回答我真秒,你想出去就出去,我们从来没有说过小区是封闭的,要说封闭,那是你们居民自愿封闭的,所以用不到通知你们的。我在人流中碰到了本楼组长,也是本楼群主,我问他为什么今天晚上开始可以出去了,是不是解封了?他也是一样的回答我此话 ,我问他为什么可以出去,你却不在大群里发个通知呢?他说,里弄书记告诉他,叫他不要在群里发通知,因为我们没有封过 小区,都是居民自发的自愿的居家不出门的,所以没有必要发通知。我又问了,今天下午二点半市政府又没有在新闻发布会上说可以解封呀,他回答说,书记说的,上海没有封闭过,有必要告诉大家可以解封了吗?都是市民自愿居家不出门的,所以新闻发布会不会说这个何时解封问题的。我听了几乎要混过去了,折腾了三个月了,居然不承认是政府行为的封城,甩锅给老百姓?这个是人说的话吗?这个政府能这么样对待上海的这件轰动世界的大事吗?我想不会是政府说的话,但是又想想,如果没有上面那种指示精神,一个小小的书记,他敢如此之说的吗?太把上海人当傻瓜了吧?)

Although “Speechless in Shanghai” seems more a story than a news report, nevertheless the actual press release from the Shanghai CCP and government (below) rings even less true. The release begins with a run on sentence of scary gaslighting and continues in that same spirit, sidestepping any signs of responsibility, let alone accountability for the lockdown: “Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, after more than two months of continuous fighting, the arduous battle to defend Shanghai has achieved major milestones. Today, Shanghai has entered the stage of fully restoring normal production and living order (在以习近平同志为核心的党中央坚强领导下,经过两个多月的持续奋战,艰苦卓绝的大上海保卫战取得了重大阶段性成果,今天起上海进入全面恢复正常生产生活秩序阶段).

I haven’t thought through the implications of how not-history is being written in Shanghai. Today, I’m simply documenting the emotional force of what has been described to me as “not saying anything 什么都没说.” This compulsory silence about the Shanghai lockdown is exacerbating the trauma of the event because nothing happened so what’s to say? The dissonance paralyzes. What kind of person, indeed, not-says non-things in order to avoid not-public accounting?

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