covid booster shot

I’m in Dali, enjoying the weather and corona-test-free days. But in preparation for re-entry into Shenzhen, yesterday afternoon several of us went to get our third covid jab. We arrived at the station around 3:15 and were told that the computer was on the blink so we couldn’t get the shot. However, the computer would be up and running the next morning, when we should come back. We asked if they were sure that the computer would be fixed the next day, and they were positive. No question, the computer would be fixed. So we left, but then one of the volunteers came running out after us, saying that the computers were fixed and we could get the shot, which we did.

The process was incredibly bureaucratic, so bureaucratic that if the computers were down, then the information couldn’t be entered into the national database–and this was the reason that was given for not allowing us to get the jab. Indeed, there were four bureaucratic steps to getting the jab: at station 1, we signed a paper with our thumbprints that said we were getting the jab; at station 2, our identifications were checked against the paper we had just signed and this information was entered into the computer system; at station 3, we handed our papers to a worker who entered this information into a computer with the registration number of the bottle of vaccine that we used (its two dosages per bottle). Also at station 3, our paper was collected and we were given a receipt that confirmed our jab, and; at station 4, we showed our receipts to a representative from the neighborhood office 居委会 where we are living, and they wrote down our information and confirmed that this was jab 3.

Hopefully, this info will appear on our telephones. However, we’ve heard reports that corona tests performed in Dali may not appear in the national register and so it is important to hold tight to the receipt.

are we all living in xinjiang?

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


I have been applying for a grant. The US based foundation asks for a CD-rom of work samples, while it is still illegal in China to send CD-roms overseas (domestic mailing no problem.) Here’s the thing. It is perfectly possible to send mega-files from China anywhere in the world, even without a VPN. It’s also possible for foundations to store information on clouds and have a protocol for deleting extra information after a round of submissions. But instead of a simple information transfer, I’m stuck between two outdated systems for archiving (or not) information. Continue reading

week in review: Sunday October 11 through Saturday October 17

I’ve decided to try posting weekly reviews; I’ve been busy, but missed the blog. I’m hoping that by scheduling a week in review post, I’ll reach a happy medium. Today, I’m publishing a short review, after today, I will be publishing the week in review on Friday mornings, Beijing standard time, which is conveniently the standard time for the whole country!

Bureaucratic hoop jumping:

Last week to extend my visa, I went to the police department. It is necessary to fill out the forms online, but those forms can only be accessed in the building. However, before I was permitted to enter my data, I had to show one of the officers that my documents were complete. They weren’t, so I went upstairs to make a photocopy. After I filled in the form, online, I took a picture of the screen so that an officer could print out my application by reading the registration number. This is necessary because it is impossible to enter more than one letter (A B C) in the line. Then I got my number and waited. Everything was okay, except that I had to bring my husband to the police department to fill our a guarantee letter that day, other wise I would have to do it again. We persevered and documents were submitted and accepted. Continue reading

the power of faxing protocols

Finding out what is happening within the Shenzhen government is difficult not only because of censorship restrictions, but also because of protocols regulating the circulation of “documents (文件)”. Specifically, no documents are are sent virtually. Instead, documents are faxed from Beijing or Guangzhou to a centralized distribution center in the Shenzhen government that receives the faxed documents, makes copies, and then delivers them to relevant ministries and bureaus. This protocol follows for lower-ranking governments as well, so Shenzhen faxes to its constituent Districts which in turn fax to their Street Offices. There are, of course, different levels of government faxes. Some are simply copies of directives or activities, while others are actually official policy and require stamps (such as the copy of a Sichuan document, above). Continue reading

the chief eats a fish

So a translation of a story making the rounds, again. The Chief Eats a Fish first appeared at the end of 2011 and keeps circulating. Fish, of course, is a common pun for “extra, or too much”. Of note are the different ways that each of his subordinates addresses Chief Yu and the way that puns function, making the social body out of different parts of the fish. Nevertheless the satire speaks for itself.

 The Chief (局长) Eats a Fish

The weekend had come and as was their custom, the work unit staff gathered to dine. According to Chief Yu this activity was “going deeply into the lowest levels of society (深入基层)” and the best shortcut for connecting with the masses.

Chief Yu loved to eat fish, which was of course on the menu. They had drunk three rounds of wine and five different dishes when the fish was served. The waitress knew Chief Yu and so she made sure that the fish head was directly facing him. Without waiting for anyone’s input, he immediately drank three cups of wine (fish head wine is a colloquialism which means “delicious wine”). When he had put down his wine cup, Chief Yu began to allocate the fish.

Chief Yu used his chopsticks to pluck out the fish’s eyeballs with practiced ease. He gave an eyeball each to the people on his left and right. He said, “this is known as the far-seeing eye. I hope the two of you will act in concert with me.”

The two vice-chiefs smiled and gave the Chief their heartfelt thanks, saying, “Chief Yu we will not let you down and will completely support the work you have begun.”

Chief Yu removed the fish skull and presented it to the Head of Accounting, saying, “this is known as the axial column. You are the key worker in our department so of course I’m giving it to you.”

The Head of account was surprised to be treated so well, but said, “Thanks, boss.”

Chief Yu gave the pretty mouth to his “young cousin”, saying, “The lips and the mouth rely on each other (唇齒相依)”, which is a traditional proverb to express the idea that two people cannot get along with each other.

The Chief’s “young cousin” shot him a flirty glance and said, “Thank you older brother Yu.”

Chief Yu gave the fishtail (wei 尾) to the office manager, making a pun on the expression, the committee takes responsibility (wei 委以重任). The office manager was completely grateful and said, “Thank you, elder.”

Chief Yu gave the fish stomach to the assistant (fu 副) head of the planning department, again making a pun, “this is called treating others with sincerity (推心置腹 – fu is also the character for stomach).” The assistant head dipped his head and replied formally, “Thank you Chief.”

Chief Yu gave the fins to the administrative director, saying “open your wings an fly. You are the nearest to our Chief and so will definitely go higher everyday.”

The administrative director a huge smile saying, “I hope that the Chief will give me the necessary support.

Chief Yu gave the fish buttocks (ding 腚) to the union chair and said, “If you hold the course, there will be happiness in the end (ding 定有後福).”

At the end of the allocation, all that was left was a picked over slab of meat. Chief Yu smiled bitterly and shook his head, saying, “I should probably take care of the leftovers, after all that’s what a Chief does.”