provisional governance in shanghai

It seems that a Shanghai community has established its own provisional community office because of the incompetence of the official community party secretary. The above photo is a picture of the first edition of their community bulletin, which is called “Tiandi Estate Epidemic Prevention.” The headline is, “Announcing the Establishment of the Provisional Autonomous Community Office for Phase 1 and 2 Second Tiandi Estates.” How cool is that?!

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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how do shenzheners map covid elsewhere?

A friend from northern China once said (and I’m paraphrasing a long ago memory of Shenzhen, circa 1995), “If you want to see Chinese culture, go to Beijing, Xi’an or Shanghai. Even Tibet has more culture than Shenzhen.”

Her pointed point was: if you’re doing cultural anthropology (and I was!), go to a Chinese city with actual culture. Even the ethnic minorities have culture. Shenzhen, not so much. In fact, she also explained that Taiwan felt more ‘Chinese’ than Shenzhen did. When asked to elaborate, she explained that in Taipei, she had been able to speak Mandarin. In contrast, in Guangdong it was difficult to find people who willingly spoke Mandarin, let alone fluently.

Of course, nearly thirty years (!!!) later, Shenzhen has come to represent China in ways that Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai do not. Moreover, Shenzhen is often held up as the most open of the first-tier four (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen). Shenzhen isn’t China’s past, my friends assure me, but its future, which is why, Shenzhen’s response to Covid-elsewhere is worth noting. How are Shenzheners positioning themselves and their city vis-a-vis perceived failures of Covid management in Shanghai?

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