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China and Covid19

No Chunyun but Staycation: Chinese New Year Won’t Be the Same This Year

From local governments to brand commercials, “staying put for the holidays” (就地过年) is the trend of this Spring Festival.

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As China is seeing the worst wave of new infections since March of last year, staying put for Chinese New Year is the trend for this holiday season.

China’s chūnyùn (春运), the travel season around Chinese New Year, started on January 28. It usually is a chaotic and exciting time as people travel home to be reunited with their families.

But this year, Chinese New Year and its travel season, which starts 15 days prior to the Spring Festival and lasts 40 days, will be different from other years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and local outbreaks across China, with the country seeing the worst wave of new infections since March of last year: 2,016 cases were reported from Jan. 1-30.

Nevertheless, officials still expect about 1.7 billion trips to be made during this time period. Although this number is higher than last year, when Spring Festival commenced just shortly after the initial Wuhan outbreak, the number of total trips is lower than during other years. In 2016, for example, around 2.9 billion trips were made and in 2019 that number rose to around 3 billion.

In order to minimize domestic migration during Chinese New Year, many places around China encourage people to stay put instead of going back home to celebrate, with some Chinese media calling “staying home” the trend of the year.

The keywords this year are “stay put for the holidays” (jiùdì guònián 就地过年) and “New Year’s policies” (guònián zhèngcè 过年政策). State media outlets like Xinhua also initiate hashtags on social media such as “This Year Stay Put For New Year’s” (#今年就地过年#).

 

Stay Home Subsidies

 

One way to encourage people to refrain from traveling during Chinese New Year is by offering people monetary compensation when they stay home. These measures are called “subsidy policies” (bǔtiē zhèngcè 补贴政策).

Earlier in January of this year, the city of Suzhou announced that it would offer compensation of 500 yuan ($77) to people who stay home during the Spring Festival. The city of Beijing promised domestic helpers in Beijing to give them a bonus if they would continue working from February 4 to February 26.

The city of Yiwu, Zhejiang, also gives out 500 yuan to every resident who does not travel from February 1st to February 26th to cover their electricity bill. The city also gives out 20GB of mobile data for all phone users to use for free, and promises free public transport to Yiwu residents during the Spring Festival period. The initiative was promoted on social media using the hashtag “Yiwu Issues 500 Yuan Consumption Vouchers to Encourage Staying Put for the New Year’ (#义乌发500元消费券鼓励就地过年#).

The cities of Hangzhou, Hefei, and Foshan also give out bonuses from 1000 up to 2000 yuan ($155-310) to various (migrant) working groups to stay put.

Various incentives across China, explained by CCTV.

There are many more initiatives though, such as Beijing giving out 20GB of free mobile data and companies in cities such as Zhejiang, Ningbo and Quanzhou issuing “red packets” for workers choosing not to go home.

Checking local policies via Alipay.

There are various ways for residents to check which benefits they could get if they stay put this year. The Alipay app, for example, allows people to check the local policies in their area (“各地过年福利政策查询”服务”).

 

Quarantine & Testing

 

For those people who would still like to travel despite the various incentives to stay home, there are some extra hurdles to take.

China’s National Health Commission has stated that people returning to rural areas will need to produce a negative Covid-19 test issued up to seven days before their departure during the Spring Festival, BBC reports.

In fact, virtually everyone taking part in the chunyun travel season will need to have a negative Covid-19 test with them. All travelers entering or returning to Beijing will also need a negative Covid-19 test taken within seven days.

Travelers will also have to be under a 14-day “home observation” period. This means they need to monitor their health and temperature daily. They are still allowed to leave their home, but they cannot participate in any group activities.

Chinese state media CCTV also reminds travelers to make sure they wear their mask the right way and to maintain hand hygiene.

 

Promoting Staycation

 

The ‘staycation’ New Year is also promoted in various other ways. Commercial brands are sending out the message of celebrating the Spring Festival at home through their ads and commercials.

The new ad video by antibacterial soap brand Safeguard (舒肤佳), for example, shows a family preparing for New Year’s festivities.

Although it first seems as if the grandparents, children and grandchildren are all celebrating together in one home, it then turns out that they are all ‘united’ at the dinner table via video connection.

The brand’s message is that this year, the most valuable gift families can give each other is the gift of safeguarding each other’s health.

There is also public service advertising initiated by local governments to promote staying at home during Chinese New Year. The image below was published through social media by Linyi city, Shandong.

Meanwhile, in a video promoted by Chinese state media People’s Daily, Zhang Wenhong (张文宏), leader of the Shanghai Covid-19 Medical Treatment Expert Group, said that “spending New Year’s in situ is a sacrifice,” also adding: “I have great admiration for the comrades who spent New Year’s Eve locally”, calling it “a contribution for all Chinese people.”

A hashtag page added to Zhang’s words received over 490 million views at time of writing (#张文宏称就地过年是作出了牺牲#).

Although many people express their understanding of the situation, not going home to spend New Year’s with their families is a big disappointment for many Weibo commenters – especially when it’s the second year to skip the Spring Festival family reunion.

“We’ve been setting aside too much over Covid-19,” one commenter writes, but others say: “Special circumstances require special treatment. It’s ok, we can stay put for Spring Festival.”

But there are also those who are just sad about missing out on the celebrations. “I understand the reasoning. But I’ll be spending Chinese New Year all alone by myself. Just thinking of it makes me want to cry.”

“I’ll spend New Year’s at home. I can have a family reunion another time. I just want this pandemic to go away.”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes


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.

©2021 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

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

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

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China and Covid19

“I’m Icelandic, Please Get Me Home!” – Weibo Post by Embassy of Iceland Sparks Wave of Jokes

Wanting to get away from China’s sweeping Covid-19 lockdowns, everybody is suddenly from Iceland now.

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After the Embassy of Iceland posted about its bustling ‘post-pandemic’ travel season – suggesting the Covid-19 “gloom is over” – everybody on Weibo is suddenly from Iceland, homesick, needing to return to their country.

A Weibo post by the Embassy of Iceland in Beijing has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens for how it describes the Covid situation in Iceland, followed by a stream of online jokes.

On May 9, the Embassy of Iceland wrote on Weibo:

“Now that entry restrictions for Iceland are lifted, more and more people are preparing to travel to Iceland for the summer. Travel agency staff have indicated that in some areas, hotels and car rentals have already become harder to find and that most regions are fully booked for the peak season. The General Manager of Icelandhotels says that all hotels are fully booked across the country for July and August, and that the time that people staying for has become longer. It looks like the tourism industry is picking up again, and people seem to be getting out of the gloom.”

Within two days time, the post received over 110,000 likes and thousands of comments, with many people claiming they are also Icelandic and need to return home.

“I want to go home, when will you come and pick me up?” some said, with one popular comment saying: “I was abducted from Iceland at the age of three and taken to Henan.”

Another wrote: “I’m hard working and speak English, would you take me as a refugee?”

Over the past weeks, China has seen a tightening of zero-Covid policies across the country. Although residents in Covid-stricken Shanghai have endured particularly harsh restrictions, over 80 bigger cities across the country have seen some kind of lockdown since mid-April.

Since the chaotic lockdown in Xi’an earlier this year followed by the mismanagement of the phased Shanghai lockdown, there have been more online discussions about China’s stringent measures to control the virus as well as some social media protests against the lockdowns and online censorship.

The post by the Icelandic Embassy on Weibo is a stark reminder of the contrast between China and other countries at this time. At the same time, it is perhaps also a welcome occasion for some online banter and sarcasm.

One commenter wrote: “I will never stop loving my country, I will always love my country, that’s my unwavering belief, even if my country really doesn’t want me and I’m left behind as a global nomad, I’m still an Icelandic.”

Others also joked about the ongoing narrative regarding Western countries supposedly doing so bad, writing: “Please take me to this evil, capitalist country, I wish to experience the hell of suffering!”

Another person wondered: “Can’t you just pick a prize winner from the comment section and award them Icelandic nationality?”

The Embassy of Iceland in Beijing is just one among dozens of foreign embassies active on the Chinese social media platform. The Embassy currently has over 88,000 followers.

“Do you take in Shanghai refugees?”, one commenter asked.

Meanwhile, there are also Weibo users criticizing the thread full of jokes, saying Iceland has its own problems and calling the viral post an ‘internet spectacle’ generated by students: “Most of them are high school students or university undergraduates, they haven’t suffered from the so-called 996 [overworking] culture, nor have they really participated in the labor market or earned money, nor had children.”

But not everyone appreciates the criticism: “Can’t you all see it’s just satire?” Another person replies: “There are more ‘Icelandic people’ on the Chinese internet right now than there actually are in Iceland.”

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

By Manya Koetse and 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:

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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