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China and Covid19

China’s ‘Sheep People’: The Stigmatization of Covid Patients

Has testing negative or positive for Covid become a matter of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’?

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As many people face Covid-related discrimination in China after testing positive, social media users are now speaking out against popular (online) language that refers to Covid patients as ‘sheep,’ saying the way people talk about the virus is worsening existing stigmatization.

As Shanghai is entering its sixth week of citywide Covid lockdowns, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of Covid, and more than 52,000 people have recovered. Meanwhile, other cities in China, including Beijing and Zhengzhou, are also seeing Covid cases rise.

Everyone who tests positive for Covid in China currently needs to go to a centralized quarantine location to ‘recover,’ even if they have no symptoms. Covid-19 patients are not allowed to isolate at home due to the risk of spreading the virus or developing severe illness.

Patients who have been discharged from quarantine locations do not always receive a warm welcome upon returning back to their community. They need to test negative for Covid twice in a row before being discharged, but then often face discrimination from neighbors or family members who fear they might still carry the virus.

In online conversations, people who have tested positive for Covid are also referred to as “little positive people” (小阳人). But because the Chinese (Mandarin) word for ‘positive’ (yáng 阳) has the same pronunciation as the word for ‘sheep’ (yáng 羊), the meaning has come to shift, going from ‘little positive people’ to ‘little sheep persons’ (小羊人).

Gradually, Covid patients have also started to be labeled as “two-legged sheep” (liǎngjiǎoyáng 两脚羊), with male patients sometimes referred to as rams (gōngyáng 公羊) and female patients as ewes (mǔyáng 母羊). On social media, netizens also simply use the emoticon for a sheep (🐑) to refer to Covid-positive people.

 

“Stop calling Covid patients ‘little sheep’!”

 

A recent WeChat article by the health and medical platform Dxy.com describes the trend of referring to Covid patients as ‘little sheep’ stigmatizing and disrespectful, calling on people to stop labeling (recovered) Covid patients like this (DXY 2022).

The article suggests it is harmful to discriminate against Covid patients, comparing the language that is being used to describe Covid patients to how people affected by leprosy have suffered stigma and discrimination throughout history.

Using the hashtag “Stop Calling Covid Patients ‘Little Sheep [Positive] People'” (#别再叫新冠患者小阳人了#), Weibo users are discussing the stigmatization of people with Covid, with many agreeing that the language used to talk about Covid patients needs to change.

“This is no different than when other countries talked about the ‘Wuhan virus’ at the start of the pandemic,” one commenter wrote. “I always felt puzzled when people would use ‘sheep’ to talk about infected people, it’s so disrespectful,” another person replied. “People are people, with feelings and dignity, it’s just inhumane to refer to them as ‘two-legged sheep.'”

In April, another online article – including a conversation with a Shanghai Disease Control and Prevention doctor – also pointed out the problem of Chinese Covid patients being stigmatized. Popular science author Wang Jie (汪诘), who is based in Shanghai, wrote that the misunderstanding and panic about the virus are actually more frightening than Covid itself and that the disdain for Covid patients is most harmful to them.

The article was controversial and ended up being taken offline from Wechat, mainly because Wang Jie stressed that in the midst of China’s zero-Covid policy and the Shanghai outbreak, the ‘cure’ against the wave of Covid infections seemed to be worse than the virus itself. In doing so, Wang also addressed that the way Covid patients are being treated is often based on fear and panic rather than science.

All of the panic surrounding the virus has placed those who are positive or even recovered under scrutiny. China’s low infection rates have also made persons who have tested positive for Covid an anomaly to many, and there is the simple fear the virus might be transmitted to them or their loved ones – a risk that would affect their family and might even have consequences for the entire community they live in.

In early stages of a local outbreak, some of the people who were among the first to test positive were also referred to as ‘spreaders’ (放毒). In many cases, their contact tracing records were made public to inform residents, leading to the entire country knowing a person’s recent whereabouts (in one case, this exposed the tragic story of a Beijing migrant).

 

“When did testing positive become a social problem, and not just a medical one?”

 

Despite using different vocabulary, Chinese state media reports on how to deal with discharged patients perhaps also do not help in fighting the Covid stigma. In April, Shanghai Daily reminded people that recovered Covid-19 patients won’t infect others after returning home, but at the same time, it also suggested that recovered patients should live in well-ventilated rooms alone and avoid close contact and meals with their family members, while also reducing contact with other residents in the community (Yang 20220).

The official guidelines for recovered Covid patients in Shanghai require seven-day home health testing (check temperature twice a day, another nucleic acid test on the seventh day), and also prescribe people to stay isolated at home in a room by themselves and keeping a safe distance from others.

“I talked to my neighbor who came back from the quarantine hospital. He said he felt that people were avoiding him, that he was discriminated against and getting stared at. He worried about how this might mentally hurt his daughter, afraid that others wouldn’t play with her anymore,” one Weibo commenter named ‘Walexandraw’ shared.

Another social media user nicknamed ‘Love is Torture’ wrote that the community where they lived did not allow them back in after returning from the quarantine facility, forcing them to stay at their company’s dormitory instead: “So what use is the government proof of recovery? Is it nothing but a piece of paper? I have a home I can’t return to, is this the correct way to handle things?!”

Recently, a photo showing a drawing on the back of the hazmat suit of an anti-epidemic worker also triggered some controversy online. The drawing shows a black and a white figure, and underneath it says “grabbing sheep” (捉羊).

The picture is based on Heibai Wuchang (黑白无常), two Chinese folk religion deities – the Black and White Guard, sometimes represented as one single person – in charge of escorting spirits of the dead to the underworld. Persons doing good will meet the deity of fortune, while persons committing evil will meet the malevolent deity (Eng 2019).

Many people condemned the drawing for the message it conveyed of wrong versus right, with the ‘sheep’ testing positive for Covid going to ‘hell.’ Some mentioned that this kind of objectification of people could contribute to a Lucifer effect where anti-epidemic workers actually start to internalize ideas about the people they are testing in terms of ‘grabbing sheep’ and ‘good versus evil.’

“This person is objectifying patients by referring to them as ‘sheep’ and using the Heibai Wuchang drawing along with it, really making people uncomfortable,” one person wrote, with another Weibo user commenting:

“Since when do you have to feel inferior and guilty about it all being your own fault if you get the virus? When did testing positive become a social problem, and not just a medical one? Why not give positive patients a respectful name instead of a wrong one like ‘little sheep person’?”

Weibo blogger ‘Directube’ also posted another digital art work highlighting this idea of medical workers fighting against the evil of Covid.

“Is this 2022 or 1822?” one person wondered.

Despite all the online calls to change the popular language related to Covid (“language is a tool for thought and shapes what we think all the time), there are also many netizens who find the nicknames funny and innocent, and continue to call Covid patients ‘little sheep’ and other related terms.

“I just thought the term was cute,” one person writes, with another netizen complaining: “We have another little sheep in the community – we’re in lockdown again.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

References

DXY.com. 2022. “别再叫新冠患者「小阳人」了 [“Don’t Call Covid Patients Little Sheep]” (In Chinese). Dingxiang Yisheng 丁香医生 WeChat Account, May 6 https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/XbqZpi0PlP55RFe8RLV_1g [May 7 2022].

Eng, Khoo Boo. 2019. Understanding Chinese Culture in Relation to Tao. Singapore: Partridge Publishing.

Yang, Jian. 2022. “11,000 Patients Discharged after Recovery.” Shanghai Daily 23 (7496), April 11.

Wang Jie 汪诘. 2022. “比新冠病毒更可怕的,是对病毒的误解和恐慌 [What Is More Frightening Than the Novel Coronavirus Is the Misunderstanding and Panic about the Virus]” (In Chinese). Sohu.com, April 3 https://www.sohu.com/a/535112126_120083328 [May 7 2022].

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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China and Covid19

These Are China’s Ten Brand-New Stadiums That Will NOT Be Used for the 2023 Asia Cup

Billions were spent on the venues to host the Asia Cup, what will happen to them now that China will no longer be the host country?

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China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host leaves netizens wondering: “Will these newly built stadiums become Covid quarantine centers instead?” These are the ten stadiums that will not be used for next year’s Asia Cup.

News that China will no longer host the 2023 Asia Cup due to the Covid situation has left Chinese netizens wondering what will happen to the mega venues constructed especially for the event.

On Saturday, May 14, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released a statement saying that, following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), they were informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup due to circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was planned to take place from June 16 to July 16, 2023, across ten Chinese cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou.

On Weibo, one popular post listed ten stadiums that were renovated or newly built to host the 2023 Asia Cup, adding the alleged (staggering) construction/renovation costs.

1. Xiamen Bailu Stadium: costs 3.5 billion [$515.5 million].
2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium: costs 3.2 billion [$470 million].
3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium: costs 2.7 billion [$397.7 million].
4. Xi’an International Football Center: costs 2.395 billion [$352.7 million].
5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium: costs 1.88 billion [$277 million].
6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium: costs 1.865 billion [$274.7 million].
7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena: costs 1.807 billion [$266 million].
8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium: costs 1.6 billion [$235.6 million].
9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium: the renovation cost 320 million [$47 million].
10. New Beijing Gongti Stadium: renovation cost 280 million [$41.2 million].

All of these stadiums were built or renovated for the Asia Cup on a tight schedule, as there was just a three-year timeframe from design to construction completion. In the summer of 2019, it was confirmed that China would host the Asia Cup.

Now that these venues will not be used for the Asia Cup, many netizens are wondering what will happen to them.

One of the most popular answers to that question was: “Perhaps they should be turned into makeshift hospitals [fangcang].”

Fangcang, China’s ‘square cabin’ makeshift Covid hospitals, are seen as a key solution in China’s fight against the virus. Together with mass testing and local lockdowns, the Fangcang have become an important phenomenon in China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy.

Since every city needs quarantine locations to be prepared for a potential local outbreak, many people half-jokingly say the venues would be more useful as Covid isolation points if they are not used for the Asia Cup anyway.

“So many great stadiums, what a waste,” some commenters write, with others suggesting the stadiums should be opened up for the people to use and enjoy.

In response to China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host, another popular comment said: “China has taken the lead in achieving Zero at the level of major sports events,” jokingly referring to the country’s Zero-Covid policy that currently impacts all aspects of society.

For others, the announcement that China would not host the Asia Cup came as a shock. Not necessarily because of the cancelation of the event itself, but because it made them realize that China’s stringent measures and Zero-Covid policy can be expected to continue well into 2023: “How did it get this far? I thought the country would open up after the general meeting,” one person wrote, referring to the Communist Party National Congress that is set for autumn 2022.

Another Weibo user wrote: “They finally said it. The Asia Cup will be hosted by another country because our Strong Country will continue to stay sealed, the money spent on building all these venues is going to go to waste.”

“The point that many people missed is that the Asian Cup is no longer being held in China because China refuses to hold the event in ‘full open mode’ as requested by foreign countries,” another commenter wrote. Some people praised the decision, calling it “courageous” for China to persist in handling the pandemic in its own way.

Others are hopeful that all of the money spent on the venues won’t be in vain, and that China can use these venues to still host the World Cup in the future.

Below is the list of the ten brand-new venues where the Asia Cup is not going to take place.

 

1. The Xiamen Bailu Stadium (厦门白鹭体育场)

The Bailu Stadium in Xiamen is an impressive construction with a steel structure similar to that of Beijing Bird’s Nest, and, like most of the stadiums in this list, it was designed especially for the 2023 Asia Cup.

Expected to be finished by late 2022, the building does not just offer a beautiful sea view, it is also fully multifunctional and has a floor area of 180,600 square meters and a capacity of 60,000 seats. It is the first professional soccer stadium in China that can switch from a soccer field to an athletic field. The inner and outer circles of the seating area can be moved to transform the stadium.

 

2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium (青岛青春足球场)

The Qingdao Youth Football Stadium, a high-standard soccer stadium with a capacity of 50,000 people, is the first major professional soccer stadium in Shandong Province.

The stadium, located in the city’s Chengyang District, started its construction in 2020 and the entire stadium with a floor area of 163,395 square meters, is expected to be finalized by late 2022.

 

3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium (重庆龙兴体育场)

Like most of the other stadiums on this list, the Chongqing Longxing Stadium started to be constructed in 2020 and the 60,000-capacity football stadium is expected to be finished in December 2022.

The design of the stadium is based on a twirling flame, meant to convey the hot image of Chongqing (the city of hotpot) and the burning Asian Cup football passion. Aerial photos published by state media in March of 2022 show that the construction of the roof and decorations has come to the final stage.

 

4. Xi’an International Football Center (西安国际足球中心)

The Xi’an International Football Center is a Zaha Hadid project, which is the same architects office to design prestigious buildings in China such as the Beijing Daxing International Airport or the Galaxy SOHO.

On their site, they write that the Footbal Centre, which started construction in 2020, is a 60,000-seat stadium in Xi’ans Fengdong New District. Besides the arena, the stadium will also provide recreational spaces for the city.

 

5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium (大连梭鱼湾足球场)

Located on the Dalian Bay, this is a spectacular new 63,000-capacity stadium that was, obviously, also meant to host the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 and to provide a home for the Dalian Professional Football Club.

An animation of the design for the Dalian Football Stadium can be viewed here.

 

6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium (成都凤凰山体育场)

The Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium consists of a a 60,000-seat stadium and an 18,000-seat standard arena. The large open-cable dome structure is reportedly the first of its kind in China.

Besides football, the venue will also be able to host other major tournaments, including ice hockey, badminton, table tennis, handball, and gymnastics.

 

7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena (上汽浦东足球场)

The Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, currently named SAIC Motor Pudong Arena, was supposed to be one of the stadiums used for the AFC Asian Cup, but it was not necessarily built for that purpose.

The 33,765-seat stadium, which is supposed to remind you of a Chinese porcelain bowl, is home to the football association Shanghai Port FC and was the first football-specific stadium designated for a club in China. Its construction, which started in 2018, was finished by late 2020.

 

8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium (苏州昆山足球场)

The Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium is the first professional soccer stadium in Jiangsu. With a total construction area of ​​135,000 square meters, the stadium can accommodate about 45,000 spectators.

The design of the building is inspired by the Chinese traditional “folding fan.” More pictures of the venue can be seen here.

 

9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium (天津滨海足球场)

The TEDA football stadium in Tianjin has been fully renovated and upgraded to host the 2023 Asia Cup. The stadium, build in 2004, originally could hold 37,450 people. The renovations of the original stadium started this year and the construction work was expected to take about six months.

 

10 . New Beijing Gongti Stadium (新北京工体)

Beijing’s old Workers’ Stadium or Gongti was closed in 2020 to be renovated and reopened bt December 2022, in time for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The Beijinger reported on the venue’s renovating process, with the stadium’s capacity increasing to 68,000, with the venue getting an all-new roof structure.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

For more articles on hot topics related to architecture in China, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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