shameful dis-ease: over the counter cold meds and covid

Body shaming and its ills are familiar: eating disorders in the pursuit of an ideal body-type; feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem caused by fat-phobic, misogynistic, racist and anti-trans bullying; and the intense pain and despair that come from being isolated from those around us simply because of who we are. Indeed, shame is an important component of social control precisely because it shifts responsibility for indifferent and cruel treatment of others from the shamer to the shamed. The logic is insidious, direct and more often than not internalized before we finish elementary school: I am treated like shit because this body is fat/ ugly/ female/ trans/ black/ old…

Recently, I’ve realized that mandatory covid testing manipulates body shame to achieve political and social goals. It has also changed previous expressions of care for family and friends.

Inquiring minds want to know: How does zero-covid play upon extant forms of body shame in Shenzhen? Well, if you lived through the US AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, you have (because you read Susan Sontag) a pretty good understanding of how illness and shame work to prevent the ill from receiving necessary care, while allowing the healthy and the powerful to justify their indifference to the pain of others. Below, I track how regulation of over the counter cold medicines is part of a bio-governance regime that has made it shameful to catch a cold.

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reverse migration from shanghai?

According to viral social media, reverse migration is the latest Shanghai initiative to achieve ‘zero-Covid.’ In turn, the government has explicitly denied that migrant workers are being forced to leave the city, calling these posts disinformation. That said, migrant workers can apply to return to their registered hometown, specifically their hukou residence. A TikTok video (below) includes the following data (translated from above image), suggesting that 8,630,500 people (roughly the population of NYC) could be directly impacted if migrant workers leave:

Shanghai is about to Release the Flood Gates!

Anhui:         2,602,000          Guangdong:     79,000
Jiangsu:      1,504,000          Yunnan:             70,000
Henan:            783,000          Hebei:                67,000
Sichuan:         624,000          Liaoning:           63,000
Jiangxi:           487,000          Jilin:                    59,000
Zhejiang:        451,000          Guangxi:            49,000
Hubei:             408,000          Shandong:        45,000
Shandong:     370,000          Xinjiang:            29,000
Fujian:             264,000          In. Mongolia:    24,000
Hunan:            229,000          Beijing:               23,000
Chongqing:    228,000         Tianjin:                13,500
Guizhou:         148,000          Qinghai:              11,000
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‘social reset’

Question du jour: how do we translate ‘社会面清零’? As conventionally used, my sense is that it means something like ‘zero-Covid in society,’ with the unspoken predicate ‘because all the positives have been locked away.’ It’s the unspoken half of the phrase–the unspoken threat of violence–that has me thinking we should translate directly–社会面 means “social aspect’ and 清零 means ‘clearance’ or ‘reset.’ I’m hearing that the people with the most power in Shanghai today are security guards, representatives from neighborhood offices (居委会), and the ‘big whites (大白)’ whose presence has become equated with arbitrary violence and detention. Apparently, these are the people enforcing zero-Covid, while most low and mid-level cadres are being replaced with people who do not question the policy. This means that when Shanghai re-opens (whenever and however), there will be a new political hierarchy in place, in addition to the completely devastated economic situation. So, why not be translation literalists (in this particular case), and call what’s happening in Shanghai a ‘social reset’?

At this writing, the art channel, 一条 has posted an exhibition of photographs of the abandoned city.

describing the crazy to u.s. americans

When I speak with U.S. Americans about China’s commitment to zero-Covid, I find myself comparing it to north American support for second amendment rights. We are no longer talking about a policy that is or is not working, but rather about a belief that the country itself is in danger. In China, the central government is acting as if any form of living with Covid will harm the country more than disrupting daily life for millions of people; and many agree. Similarly, the NRA acts as if the foundations of U.S. American democracy will be permanently damaged by background checks on people who want to purchase guns; and many agree. In both cases, what seems from the outside as an irrational escalation of commitment to an outdated policy, from the inside looks like a fight to maintain an imperiled way of life.

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shenzhen covid update for inquiring minds

“What’s up in Shenzhen?” You and other inquiring minds want to know.

Well, for starters, we have a new conspiracy theory about how Shenzhen’s successfully prevented a massive omicron outbreak on the scale of Hong Kong and/or Shanghai.

Your curiosity gets the best of you and you impishly ask, “What’s the tea?”

I lean forward and whisper, “Apparently, the city’s zero-Covid strategy has served to cover-up the fact that Shenzhen was caught unprepared, just like Hong Kong and Shanghai. At the beginning of the outbreak, the city didn’t have enough quarantine centers to house all the positives, symptomatic and not. So instead of treating patients, they sent everyone home to wait it out, without ever releasing true statistics. The basis of this conjecture is the unstated question: how could Hong Kong and Shanghai have so many positives and Shenzhen not?”

And my voice is rising along with my excitement, “I mean, you can hear the rhetorical force of the conspiracy theory, which pivots on what the numbers mean. And let’s be real. Statistical abnormalities should be ringing our bells because so much of who we think we are is tied up in hypotheses about populations, which are in fact statistically imagined entities. So, to my mind, which is a curious mind, the reasoning behind this theory of what is actually happening is mischievous satirical impeccable. Especially, if your point of epistemological departure is that omicron spreads+government can’t be trusted. Which, who doesn’t believe?

Anyway, the post (which counts as rumor mongering within official social media, but that’s another story for another day) reads:

I finally understand, and here’s the story:
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