virtual concern: shanghai city and jilin province

First, Xi’an and then Shenzhen, now Shanghai and Jilin. Although if you’ve been following the covid situation in Shanghai, odds are that’s how you’ve heard about the covid situation in Jilin–as an addendum, a postscript, a by the way this also happened elsewhere throwaway line at the end of a news report. From what I can gather, the Shanghai government has lost control of the covid situation and the military police 武警 have been called in to restore order. I have seen pictures of infants who have been separated from their parents, sleeping five or six to a crib; I have seen video clips of people breaking through cordons, although it is unclear where they are going; I have seen snapshots of international brand shopping bags, (including Maotai), hanging from doorknobs in compliance with the delivery of corona self-test kits to families, and; I have seen seen videos of the arrival of military police troupes dressed up in hazmat suits. As for Jilin, I haven’t seen that much. Apparently, the province’s major (Changchun and Jilin) and minor cities are in the “development stage” of the outbreak, which means it’s spreading. I’ve also read that there are huge numbers of asymptomatic cases and that the cold weather (I’ve seen pictures of workers bundled up in winter coats beneath their hazmat suits, dodging snowflakes as they motorbike to their next station) make it difficult to conduct tests and deliver food.

Here’s the rub: I have limited means to evaluate what’s happening in Shenzhen, let alone cities that I haven’t visited or only infrequently visit. How can I evaluate what these unknowable events mean for me personally, Shenzhen specifically, and China more generally? So that’s what today’s post is about: my experience of the Chinese virtual public sphere.

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the shenzhen diaspora in dalifornia

So, those who can afford to leave Shenzhen and escape the crazy, have. Many are hanging out in second homes in Dali, but others are young parents, who are enrolling their children in kindergartens in Dali.

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“war time” situation

The image reads: The humble wishes of Shenzheners, be able to leave their offices, be able to go home, sleep through sunrise without being woken up by megaphones. It’s true, as omicron has spread throughout Shenzhen, the city has entered what has been called in groups as a “war time situation.” Where it is required to be tested four times over four consecutive days. If a case is discovered the building is closed with people in it (can’t leave their office), the residential area is closed (can’t return home), and larger areas, depending on the routes they have taken over the course of their infection, are also closed. And yes, they have woken people up in the middle of the night and herded them outside for compulsory testing. The shut downs in Futian have made people especially nervous and some report going to buy vegetables, but the stores are empty.

Today, I’m wondering about the relationship between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the abrupt turn to “war time” metaphors in Shenzhen. I’m not yet sure how to think about this juxtaposition, but I can’t be the only one wondering, who does this militaristic rhetoric serve and toward what ends? Is it to take our minds off the upcoming Two Meetings? Is it to get us used to talking about war time necessities? Is it to distract us from Xuzhou? Is it to deepen levels of control and surveillance in Shenzhen? All of the above? I’ll let you know my thoughts when I have some…