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No Champagne & Caviar: China’s 2015 Parliamentary Sessions

China’s Parliamentary Sessions will commence in Beijing this week. This year, cutting costs on the event itself has become a priority.

Manya Koetse

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Trending all over China’s internet are the ‘Two Meetings” (‘lianghui’, 两会), the annual sessions of China’s parliament and its advisory body, commencing in Beijing this week. This year cutting costs on the event appears to have become a priority: no red carpets, no flowers and no bottled water. The frugality measures seem to suit Xi Jinping’s campaign against the malfeasance of public officials. How different things were in Mao’s time.

The National People’s Congress (NPC) is the legislative body of China’s government, consisting of 2987 members. Its political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCP), holds 2237 members (Chuan 2015). During the so-called lianghui, congress members will review government work and discuss reforms of the judicial system, tax matters and regional development (Caixin 2015).

The annual gathering of the NPC and CPPCP is a major political happening that is closely followed by local and international media. Frugality was already promoted during the events over the recent years, but it is especially advocated this year.

The promotion of frugality involves the elimination of fresh fruit or flowers in congress members’ hotel rooms. Since the stay of these members is relatively long (the meetings end on March 15), disposable toiletries will also be exchanged for reusable items, such as non-disposable slippers and toothbrushes.

A special corner will be set up at every floor where congress members can polish their own shoes. Guests arriving at the hotel will no longer receive assistance in carrying luggage to the room. Provided dinners will be ‘home-cooked’ and simple, with a selection of ten warm dishes and five different staple foods. Instead of bottled mineral water, there will be plain boiled water. There will also be lemonade and apple juice from beverage dispensers (Tencent 2015; You 2015).

 toothpasteNo disposable items in congress members’ hotel rooms. Instead, reusable items (Tencent 2015).

polishFrugality meets congress meeting: polish your own shoes (Tencent 2015).

 couchNo fresh fruit, no flowers (Tencent 2015).

In the Tencent article “How Mao Zedong Received Lianghui Committee Members“, author You Youfang goes back in time to the parliamentary sessions of 1954, the first year of the National People’s Congress in Bejing. NPC representatives Xu Zhucheng and Song Yunbin wrote about these lianghui sessions in their respective diaries.

During the event, that lasted throughout September, they describe the lavish banquets, wine-filled dinners and theater performances, including those of top opera stars Ma Lianliang and Li Yilan. Entertainment was provided every night- members could see every play they wanted to see. Even during lunch, there was a selection of local drinks, beer and wine. At the end of the event, Mao Zedong proposed a toast to the health of the party members, which resulted in toasting at least twenty times, according to the diary of Song Yunbin.

 

2000-1Model workers applauding at the National People’s Congress ceremony on Tiananmen, 1954.

 

This year, China’s congress members might have to do without the twenty-something toasts, lavish banquets, and glamorous plays. No champagne or caviar. At least they will get to take their slippers home.

 

– by Manya Koetse

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References

Caixin. 2015. “Closer Look: What to Expect from This Year’s ‘Two Sessions.'” Caixin Online, 3 March http://english.caixin.com/2015-03-03/100787411.html [4.3.15].

Chuan Guanjun 川观君. 2015. 全国两会的代表委员共多少人?四川有多少?Sichuan Online, March 2 http://sichuan.scol.com.cn/dwzw/201503/10037806.html [4.3.15].

Tencent News. 2015. “节俭两会:宾馆不设鲜花 洗漱用品非一次性.” Tencent, 2 March http://news.qq.com/a/20150303/010747.htm#p=1 [4.3.15].

You Youfang 游有方. 2015. “毛泽东如何招待两会代表委员.” Tencent Dajia, 4 March http://dajia.qq.com/blog/431368037182979 [4.3.15].

Image used: Tencent Dajia, 4 March http://dajia.qq.com/blog/431368037182979 [4.3.15].

 

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©2014 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

“Goodbye, Health Code”: Chinese Netizens Say Farewell to the Green Horse

“For three years, I was able to guard my green horse,” some said after many places in China have now stopped checking Health Code apps.

Manya Koetse

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China’s Health Code apps and the green QR code have been a crucial part of China’s Covid strategy for nearly three years. Today, many Chinese bid farewell to the Health Code app and their lucky ‘Green Horse.’

Since 2020, China’s Health Code apps have become utterly ingrained in everyday life as a pivotal tool in the country’s ongoing fight against Covid-19. The Health Code system (there are at least 31 different regional health code applications across China) uses different sources of information, from self-reported health status to travel history and Covid test results, to determine whether or not a person gets a Green QR Code, a Yellow one, or a Red one.

Health Code scans are required when entering communities, malls, supermarkets, commercial buildings, and are basically key to moving around the city.

The Green color means you’re safe (low-risk) and have free movement, the Yellow code (mid-risk) requires self-isolation and the Red color code is the most feared one: it means you either tested positive or are at high risk of infection. Clinging on to one’s green code was also referred to as ‘Guarding the Green Horse’ (read all about this in our article on Health Codes).

‘Health Code’ in Chinese is jiànkāngmǎ 健康吗. ‘Green Horse’ in Chinese is lǜmǎ 绿马 , which sounds exactly the same as the word for ‘green code’ (绿码). In a social media environment where homophones and online puns are popular and ubiquitous, it did not take long for the ‘green code’ to turn into the ‘green horse.’

But a lot is changing when it comes to China’s fight against Covid. Following an unstoppable Omicron outbreak across China, earlier optimization of Covid measures in November, major Covid outbreaks and unrest at Foxconn in Zhengzhou, and protests in various Chinese cities, and a prior easing of Covid measures in various cities, Chinese central authorities announced far-reaching changes to the country’s dynamic Zero Covid policy on Wednesday.

These changes also include a stop to Health Code checks when traveling, and an end to the requirement of negative nucleic acid tests for many places (unless it is about special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, medical institutions, etc.)

On Thursday, December 6, Chinese social media users started saying goodbye to the Health Code system (#告别健康码#), posting photos and videos of QR posters and travel code information being taken down at stations.

Saying goodbye to health code is top trending on Weibo.

The hashtag “Saying Goodbye to Health Code” became a top trending hashtag on Weibo, and by 22:00 local time, had already received over 660 million clicks on the platform.

The Zhengzhou subway station is among the places that have already removed their Health Code posters (#郑州地铁撤下健康码海报#).

In the Guangzhou subway, posters were already removed on Wednesday.

Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) also published various photos of station staff taking down QR code posters, using the hashtag “Many Stations Removing Health Code Posters” (#多地车站撤下健康码海报#).

“I didn’t need to scan the Health Code when entering university today. Bye bye, Health Code!” one netizen said, with another Sichuan-based blogger also writing: “The sport stadium, the mall, I didn’t need to scan anything today.”

“I’ve been waiting for this for so long, and it still came unexpectedly. From now on, we will need to protect ourselves,” one comment said. “This just feels amazing,” one Guangdong blogger wrote.

This idea of the government protecting people for three years, and that it is now up to the Chinese people to protect themselves, is a recurring one that you can see all over social media. Many people feel that zero Covid measures such as mass testing, local lockdowns, centralized quarantines, Health Code systems, 48-hour negative nucleic acid tests requirements, etc. were all government measures that were protecting the people.

Without this layer of protection, many say that individuals should now take responsibility for their own health.

But there are also those who criticize this line of thinking:

I particularly dislike that talk of ‘the nation has protected you for three years, you can’t count on them any more and will have to rely on yourself now,’ the people who say this are either stupid or spoiled. What is the nation? The nation is the people, the people are the nation, the three-year-long fight against the epidemic is one in which the masses sacrificed their time, space, money, and even their freedom. Every person paid their share of obligations. What is your talk of ‘they won’t look after us, it’s up to you now’? The best fight against the epidemic is one with an objective and scientific approach. Not a single country in this world really ‘laid flat’ [to be completely passive in light of epidemic]; every country has actively explored and sought for better ways to live with the virus. This is a people’s war. And in war, you’ll always have casualties. What we need to do is to balance between survival and development, to minimize the damage as much as possible.”

“There’s no use in saying goodbye to it,” one netizen said: “The most crucial time will be when the virus is gone.”

There are also those who expect the coming time is going to be strange: “I think most people will have a moment after this that they’ll take out their QR code for scanning whenever they enter a public place. After all, this wasn’t just a few days, it’s a habit we learned for three years.”

Some people are complaining that they are not seeing any differences yet in their area or city, from Changsha to Shenzhen, and that they are eagerly waiting for changes to be implemented.

Meanwhile, green horse images are circulating on Weibo, where many bid farewell to the mystical creature. “For three years, I was able to guard my green horse,” one person wrote: “Goodbye, green horse.”

“Goodbye and I hope never to see you again,” another Weibo user replied.

Read more about China’s Health Codes here. To read more about ‘Zero Covid’ ending, read here.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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