The following post was first published on Pandemic Discourses, a blog curated by the India China Institute at the New School. The goal of the blog is to bring differently situated perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic into conversation with each other. The purpose of my post was to provide impressions of the first six months of the pandemic and responses in Shenzhen.
It’s been roughly six months since Shenzhen introduced measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Statistics from the Shenzhen Health Commission 卫健委 show that the highest number of cases occurred at the end of January and early February. There was a second wave that coincided with the return of residents after the Chinese New Year’s holiday. Indeed, the city has emphasized the difference between “locally transmitted” and “imported” cases. As of July 19, 2020, the city had a confirmed total of 462 cases, while the most recent case was reported on April 28, 2020. Continue reading
If you are interested in government approved daily updates on what’s happening with the coronavirus in Shenzhen, you could do worse than visiting EYESHENZHEN, which provides translations of city briefings. The site also includes a comprehensive introduction to the city’s mainstream art scene.
When the New Year’s holiday began, much of the sociality that characterizes everyday life in our housing estate ended. There were no more early morning exercise groups, mid-morning dancing Aunties, and afternoon gamers. We have several groups who play cards, Chinese chess, and mah jong in the compound. However, children are still riding bikes, playing badminton, and dribbling basketballs. It is also possible to visit friends within the estate, and so the other night, we had friends over for dinner and a game of cribbage. What I learned from my friends is that they aren’t missing face-to-face interaction as much as someone of my generation might think because young people have been proactive in organizing even more online social events than usual. There have been online photo-galleries, where people upload images on a shared theme, online talks, where people listen to and interact with a guest speaker, and even more online gaming than usual. In other words, my younger friends have experienced the delay in returning to work and school as a chance to intensify their online friendships, which they agree, are often less stressful and more rewarding than face-to-face interactions.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why the quarantine in Shenzhen has been so smooth and this is what I’ve come up with: the state is using its anti-terrorist infrastructure to control population movement and combat the spread 2019-nCoV. Continue reading
A poem from a friend:
And two other posts: Continue reading
It’s true: nothing’s every really over. I’ve realized why these past few days quarantine restrictions seem so familiar: it’s as if both the SARS precautions and the second line have been reactivated. From SARS: we can freely leave our estate, but only residents can enter. From days of the second line: we can freely move about the city, but residents need to be registered to return, while non-residents must prove they have jobs to return to. At present it seems like some jobs will begin again on the 17th and others are scheduled for the 24th. Perhaps schools will be up and running in March.
Here’s the rub: Management protocols that have limited the movement of people still linger. The gates of Shenzhen University, for example, became operationalized during the student quarantine, and afterwards the guards continued to control access to the campus. Inspections in the metro became operationalized during the Universidade and continue to structure access in and out of the system. It remains to be seen how many of these extreme measures will be incorporated into our post 2019 n-CoV normal.
One of the eight Wuhan whistleblowers, Li Wenliang (李文亮) died on February 7, Chinese time. Most of the posts to my friends’ circle (朋友圈) are memorials to him. In addition to pictures of Li Wenliang wearing a face mask, these posts include images of his police file for creating rumors about a SARS-like virus and screenshots of relevant posts, including international posts in English and German. In addition, essays about his life and the meaning of his death are starting to appear. The more ‘viral’ of these essays emphasize the fact that he was an ordinary person doing his job and that he had the courage to speak truth to power. These posts imply a relationship between Li Wenliang’s status and his courage; only the ordinary, it would seem, are able to tell the truth, affirming both the need for public intellectuals to watchdog the public realm and the public’s right to have intellectual watchdogs looking out for their interests. Continue reading
I went out this morning to buy fresh bread (still warm!) at my favorite bakery. The stairwell in our building is not only spotless, but also smells of disinfectant. In the compound, our resident Party Center (党群中心) had an announcement about sanitation safety on loop. One of the security guards took my temperature as I left and as I returned.
Things that I’ve heard from friends in other parts of the city: streets are empty, but in Baishizhou, more storefronts have been cordoned off; the country may be on lockdown, but it is partial. Urban renewal proceeds. Also, students have been sent reading materials and some have already begun online classes.
Something I’ve heard from a friend whose hometown is near Wuhan: everyone must stay indoors. One person per household can leave once every five days to purchase food and necessities.
Yesterday, on my way out for grocery shopping, I had to open the gate to leave the housing estate. This was somewhat strange because usually the gate is left open to pedestrians, but I didn’t think too much about it, especially because as I walked down the street I noticed that small groceries had opened, including my favorite bakery. On the face of it, things were getting back to normal. However, when I arrived back home, I entered the gate to discover several police officers and red-vested individuals, who I presume were some kind of volunteer. They were busy conferring with each other and the estate security guards. They didn’t say what they were up to, but several hours later a friend posted a map of confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the neighborhood. There were no cases in our estate, but four in nearby estates. Another friend then posted an app for checking the location of confirmed cases throughout the city.
Here’s the point: this morning cat litter was delivered to our gate, but not our door. For the moment it seems, only residents can come into and leave the estate. I’m not sure if this means the security guards will start taking our temperature or not. I’ll go out today to find out.
One of the major complaints that I am hearing in Shenzhen is the lack of transparency about information about the new coronavirus; most of the information we are hearing isn’t coming from official sources. Indeed, the first announcement of the Wuhan coronavirus came from eight unnamed, unofficial sources, which announced that a new virus had been discovered. The Wuhan police “handled them according to law” for spreading rumors and reminded the public that “the net isn’t outside the law.”