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China and Covid19

Social Media Discussions Surrounding China’s Major Policy Shift and National Covid Wave

Five major views and discussions on Chinese social media in light of the country’s sudden opening up and Covid wave.

Manya Koetse




On December 7th of this year, Chinese authorities announced the ten new rules that eased the country’s stringent Covid measures. Within days, the Health Code system was abolished in most places, quarantine locations were changed into sub-designated hospitals, and by December 12th, the country’s zero-Covid had effectively ended.

Although people were happy to bid farewell to China’s fangcang, lockdowns, mass testing, and Covid QR systems, the extreme speed at which the changes took place caused other problems as the number of Covid-infected rose all over China and difficulties in purchasing medicine became a reality. Many were unprepared, in various ways, for the huge shift in policy.

As countless Weibo bloggers post about their Covid symptoms, exchange tips and give updates, there are also other wider social media discussions surrounding the current Covid outbreak. These are the main gists of the online discussions taking place on Weibo this week.



“I am still unable to understand why the policy took such a sharp turn, we did not even have the time to adjust”


One recurring sentiment on Chinese social media in the midst of this current outbreak is that the changes are too abrupt and that people barely had time to prepare themselves for the end of ‘Zero Covid.’

On December 5th, just days before the major easing of restrictions, one blogger from Beijing (@ETF拯救世界) posted:

What I find a bit strange is that we’re seeing several places opening up now, but why haven’t we seen something like a national-level manual regarding medical treatment? How to handle getting infected, what kind of medicine we can take, how to rest, how to use antigen tests, under which circumstances should we stay home and when to go to hospital, when we can start exercise and undertake activities again, what about nutrition, the issue of mental stress, and when can we return to work again? There is nothing there. If there’s something, I haven’t seen it.”

Although state media outlet People’s Daily later did issue such a ‘manual’ via social media (#阳性感染者居家康复实用手册#), it came at a time when the major Covid wave was already in full swing.

“Lockdowns are lifted, but now I no longer dare to go out at all,” one popular comment said.

“Such a sudden shift, if we would have a road of easing [measures] first, we could have had some options. Now we have no choice,” one Weibo user from Guangdong wrote.

“Why did we open up in winter, why didn’t they restore the purchasing of antipyretic medicine before opening up, why did they insist on notifying us so last minute?”

Some people share how they feel the shifts of 2022 when it comes to Covid made them feel like they had no control of the situation at all: “I am still unable to understand why the policy took such a sharp turn, we did not even have the time to adjust.”

At the same time, there are also commenters who still say they feel happy about the end of Covid measures: “I am not happy about the sudden turn of events, but I’m glad that we’re opening up,” one person wrote.



“Covid-19 is a ‘monster-revealing mirror’ when it comes to human nature”


Apart from the sudden policy shift itself, people also complain about a shift in people’s attitudes regarding the virus and the sense of selfishness that has come with it.

Xie Dai (@榭黛), a Fujian-based Weibo astrology blogger with over 800k followers, addressed the polarization that the recent opening up of China has brought between people in a recent post.

Today is December 22nd, the tenth day since the complete liberalization (全面放开) of the epidemic. I won’t go into details about the other [problems] Covid has brought, but I want to plainly talk about the problem related to human nature reflected in the epidemic. Some people have become closer thanks to the epidemic, others have started to plant seeds of hatred inside their hearts because of the epidemic, and then there are those who parted ways due to the epidemic. Covid-19 has become a “monster-revealing mirror” when it comes to human nature.”

Xie Dai writes about an incident recently with a customer from Hubei who told her that they wished she would “test positive for Covid very soon” – a comment that left Xie Dai baffled. She also recounts the personal stories of some of her contacts, including one in which a bride-to-be called off the wedding because her fiancee offered her zero sympathies while lying in bed with Covid and a 104°F (40°C) fever – until he tested positive himself and started to understand how bad she must have felt.

One of her clients from Jiangsu let her cousin (her aunt’s daughter) stay with her for the past 2.5 years without asking for any money in return. When Xie Dai’s client fell ill with Covid, the cousin did not ask her how she was doing, nor brought her any medicine or fruit. While lying in bed, she had plenty of time to think and decided to kick her cousin out of the house once she recovered.

Other trending stories show that partners are not always supportive in times of sickness. One video captured by home security cameras showed a husband carelessly leaving his crying child with his wife, even though the mother was visibly ill and had no energy to take care of their baby (#丈夫故意把孩子弄哭丢给发烧妻子#). “Once you test positive, their humanity is put to the test,” one popular comment said.

Besides the complaints about the inconsiderate behavior of people from within one’s own social circles, there are also those who think (local) authorities have been selfish in their hasty decision-making: “When Shanghai saw an epidemic outbreak, they did lockdown lockdown lockdown, because the ones going into lockdown wasn’t them; during this outbreak, they’re opening opening opening, because they can lock themselves out.”



“Pinning the suffering on others becomes more important than the suffering itself”


Covid is causing clashes between friends and families, but there is also a broader trend of people condemning those who previously spoke out in support of China opening up, and those who protested against China’s stringent Covid measures in late November (read more here).

“Since so many people were dissatisfied with the lockdown controls, they should be open to accept the consequences they face today,” one blogger based in Xinjiang wrote.

Another Weibo user suggested that the protesters carrying A4 papers, protesting to ease measures, did not take into account the status quo of China’s medical situation and the size of the population, saying: “You now turn a blind eye to the human suffering we’re facing.”

One popular blogger from Shanghai wrote:

Hatred. In the past few days, I noticed a wider trend of public opinion regarding the massive number of infections after opening up, with some having heavy symptoms – some elderly people simply can’t cope and pass away. All these sufferings are considered to be evil caused by those who demanded liberalization, and all those who advocated liberalization should now pay the price and apologize. If someone enthusiastically promoted opening up before and are now infected themselves, then they only have themselves to blame. In short, one group of people sees another group of people as enemies and hates them all for having their wishes fulfilled as if they really could decide anything. I said it before, but in public opinion, pinning the suffering on others becomes more important than suffering itself, and you could even say that exercising control over the blame of the suffering becomes like exercising control over the suffering itself.”



“That Covid would be like a cold is the biggest lie of 2022”


Throughout China’s epidemic, many well-known experts have recurrently given advice and information regarding Covid-19. In this current outbreak, public anger is also directed at these experts, especially because their advise seems to change all the time and many people do not agree with what they are saying or doing, and people have lost trust in their words.

“Completely unprepared, they opened everything up in one night, and greatly misjudged the level of infections,” one Weibo user wrote.

“These bullsh*t experts said it was like a cold,” others said: “But I feel so unwell!”

“That Covid would be like a cold is the biggest lie of 2022.”

One of the experts who compared Covid-19 to a common cold is Zhong Nanshan (钟南山),who even proposed to call Covid-19 the Covid cold (新冠感冒) (#钟南山称当前新冠应该叫新冠感冒#).

Another reason why people are tired of reading about ‘expert advise’ in the media is that they contradict each other all the time.

For example, one hashtag said: “Experts Say that the Body Will Still Need 2-3 Weeks to Recover after Turning Negative” (#专家称转阴后身体约2到3周才能恢复#) while the other hashtag said “Zhong Nanshan Says 99% of Infected People Will Fully Recover within 7-10 Days” (#钟南山称99%感染者7至10天完全恢复#).

This trend of people turning against experts also came up earlier in 2022, when the topic of “experts are advised not to advise” (建议专家不要建议) was trending on Chinese social media.



“I hope those who died can rest in peace, and that those who live will be strong”


Perhaps one of the most important topics that comes up in the context of online discussions about China’s current situation is healthcare and the availability of medicine and other medical resources.

“It’s the sixth day of Covid,” one Weibo user wrote: “I used to support opening up, until I got Covid. I suddenly realize that this virus is not so easy, I know of many elderly people who already passed away because of it and I feel really unwell, which is making me wonder in which way this ‘catastrophe’ will end.”

Other netizens also worry about the Covid symptoms they are experiencing or seeing all around them. “What I don’t understand is that before we opened up, the people inside the quarantine locations were asymptomatic, however after opening up so many who test positive are experiencing symptoms all over, and are running a fever.”

Many people complain about their symptoms being much worse than they expected. “Will I ever feel well again?” some wondered.

“I can’t get medicine, I can’t get a nucleic acid test here, they’re not doing it at the hospital either, and the antigen tests are sold out,” one Weibo commenter from Jiangsu said on 28 December.

Another Weibo user posted a video on 24 December showing crowded scenes at the emergency department of Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital recorded on the 23rd. In the video, two hospital staff members pushed a trolley with a body bag on it through the crowds. Although the video was shared over 500 times and received more than 300 comments, none of the comments were available to see at time of writing.

Last week, people in various regions across China also posted videos and images of overcrowded fever clinics and local hospitals.

Healthcare workers also shared their challenges on social media, as the long working hours and major inflow of Covid-positive patients expose them to physical and mental exhaustion.

“We usually have thirty patients in our ward, now we have over seventy yet we have the same number of staff,” one healthcare worker from Zhejiang wrote.

“It’s been nineteen days since we opened up, and I never imagined this,” one Weibo user from Henan said: “In every county and municipality, funeral parlors are overflowing, the crematoriums are completely full.” After writing about seeing long lines of people in front of the funeral homes, they end their post: “I hope those who died can rest in peace, and that those who live will be strong. Tomorrow will be a better day.”

Read more about Zero Covid ending here.

By Manya Koetse 


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Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of 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 Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Repurposing China’s Abandoned Nucleic Acid Booths: 10 Innovative Transformations

Abandoned nucleic acid booths are getting a second life through these new initiatives.

Manya Koetse



During the pandemic, nucleic acid testing booths in Chinese cities were primarily focused on maintaining physical distance. Now, empty booths are being repurposed to bring people together, serving as new spaces to serve the community and promote social engagement.

Just months ago, nucleic acid testing booths were the most lively spots of some Chinese cities. During the 2022 Shanghai summer, for example, there were massive queues in front of the city’s nucleic acid booths, as people needed a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours for accessing public transport, going to work, or visiting markets and malls.

The word ‘hésuān tíng‘ (核酸亭), nucleic acid booth (also:核酸采样小屋), became a part of China’s pandemic lexicon, just like hésuān dìtú (核酸地图), the nucleic acid test map lauched in May 2022 that would show where you can get a nucleic test.

Example of nucleic acid test map.

During Halloween parties in Shanghai in 2022, some people even came dressed up as nucleic test booths – although local authorities could not appreciate the creative costume.

Halloween 2022: dressed up as nucliec acid booths. Via @manyapan twitter.

In December 2022, along with the announced changed rules in China’s ‘zero Covid’ approach, nucleic acid booths were suddenly left dismantled and empty.

With many cities spending millions to set up these booths in central locations, the question soon arose: what should they do with the abandoned booths?

This question also relates to who actually owns them, since the ownership is mixed. Some booths were purchased by authorities, others were bought by companies, and there are also local communities owning their own testing booths. Depending on the contracts and legal implications, not all booths are able to get a new function or be removed yet (Worker’s Daily).

In Tianjin, a total of 266 nucleic acid booths located in Jinghai District were listed for public acquisition earlier this month, and they were acquired for 4.78 million yuan (US$683.300) by a local food and beverage company which will transform the booths into convenience service points, selling snacks or providing other services.

Tianjin is not the only city where old nucleic acid testing booths are being repurposed. While some booths have been discarded, some companies and/or local governments – in cooperation with local communities – have demonstrated creativity by transforming the booths into new landmarks. Since the start of 2023, different cities and districts across China have already begun to repurpose testing booths. Here, we will explore ten different way in which China’s abandoned nucleic test booths get a second chance at a meaningful existence.


1: Pharmacy/Medical Booths

Via ‘copyquan’ republished on Sohu.

Blogger ‘copyquan’ recently explored various ways in which abandoned PCR testing points are being repurposed.

One way in which they are used is as small pharmacies or as medical service points for local residents (居民医疗点). Alleviating the strain on hospitals and pharmacies, this was one of the earliest ways in which the booths were repurposed back in December of 2022 and January of 2023.

Chongqing, Tianjin, and Suzhou were among earlier cities where some testing booths were transformed into convenient medical facilities.


2: Market Stalls

Market stalls instead of nucliec acid testing booths. Image via Sina.

In Suzhou, Jiangsu province, the local government transformed vacant nucleic acid booths into market stalls for the Spring Festival in January 2022, offering them free of charge to businesses to sell local products, snacks, and traditional New Year goods.

The idea was not just meant as a way for small businesses to conveniently sell to local residents, it was also meant as a way to attract more shoppers and promote other businesses in the neighborhood.


3: Community Service Center

Small grid community center in Shizhuang Village, image via Sohu.

Some residential areas have transformed their local nucleic acid testing booths into community service centers, offering all kinds of convenient services to neighborhood residents.

These little station are called wǎnggé yìzhàn (网格驿站) or “grid service stations,” and they can serve as small community centers where residents can get various kinds of care and support.


4: “Refuel” Stations

In February of this year, 100 idle nucleic acid sampling booths were transformed into so-called “Rider Refuel Stations” (骑士加油站) in Zhejiang’s Pinghu. Although it initially sounds like a place where delivery riders can fill up their fuel tanks, it is actually meant as a place where they themselves can recharge.

Delivery riders and other outdoor workers can come to the ‘refuel’ station to drink some water or tea, warm their hands, warm up some food and take a quick nap.


5: Free Libraries

image via sohu.

In various Chinese cities, abandoned nucleic acid booths have been transformed into little free libraries where people can grab some books to read, donate or return other books, and sit down for some reading.

Changzhou is one of the places where you’ll find such “drifting bookstores” (漂流书屋) (see video), but similar initiatives have also been launched in other places, including Suzhou.


6: Study Space

Photos via Copyquan’s article on Sohu.

Another innovative way in which old testing points are being repurposed is by turning them into places where students can sit together to study. The so-called “Let’s Study Space” (一间习吧), fully airconditioned, are opened from 8 in the morning until 22:00 at night.

Students – or any citizens who would like a nice place to study – can make online reservations with their ID cards and scan a QR code to enter the study rooms.

There are currently ten study booths in Anji, and the popular project is an initiative by the Anji County Library in Zhejiang (see video).


7: Beer Kiosk

Hoegaarden beer shop, image via Creative Adquan.

Changing an old nucleic acid testing booth into a beer bar is a marketing initiative by the Shanghai McCann ad agency for the Belgium beer brand Hoegaarden.

The idea behind the bar is to celebrate a new spring after the pandemic. The ad agency has revamped a total of six formr nucleic acid booths into small Hoegaarden ‘beer gardens.’


8: Police Box

In Taizhou City, Jiangsu Province, authorities have repurposed old testing booths and transformed them into ‘police boxes’ (警务岗亭) to enhance security and improve the visibility of city police among the public.

Currently, a total of eight vacant nucleic acid booths have been renovated into modern police stations, serving as key points for police presence and interaction with the community.


9: Lottery Ticket Booths

Image via The Paper

Some nucleic acid booths have now been turned into small shops selling lottery tickets for the China Welfare Lottery. One such place turning the kiosks into lottery shops is Songjiang in Shanghai.

Using the booths like this is a win-win situation: they are placed in central locations so it is more convenient for locals to get their lottery tickets, and on the other hand, the sales also help the community, as the profits are used for welfare projects, including care for the elderly.


10: Mini Fire Stations

Micro fire stations, images via ZjNews.

Some communities decided that it would be useful to repurpose the testing points and turn them into mini fire kiosks, just allowing enough space for the necessary equipment to quickly respond to fire emergencies.

Want to read more about the end of ‘zero Covid’ in China? Check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse,

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China and Covid19

The Hottest Place in China: How Zibo Became a Popular Tourist Destination and an Online Hit

There are even special Zibo BBQ trains now. This is how Zibo barbecue suddenly became the hottest meal of the country.

Manya Koetse



The old industrial city of Zibo treated students well during their zero Covid quarantine. This spring, they came back to celebrate the city. Their enthusiasm and social media posts were so contagious that the entire country now wants a taste of Zibo barbecue.

In central Shandong province, bordering the provincial capital Jinan to the west, you will find the city of Zibo (淄博). With its 4.7 million inhabitants, the old industrial and mining city was not exactly known as a trendy tourist destination. But that has all changed now. Everybody is talking about Zibo.

For the upcoming May 1st holiday, hotel bookings in Zibo went up 800% compared to 2019, making it one of the most popular destinations in Shandong. The city has especially attracted online attention since March of 2023, with hashtags and hot searches peaking over the previous week.

How did Zibo become such an online sensation, especially among China’s young travelers? The city’s hit status is widely discussed on Chinese social media apps these days. The emergence of such an overnight sensation is usually the result of various factors coming together at the right time, and this is also the case with the hype surrounding Zibo.

Zibo Barbecue

Its appealing barbecue culture is the first and main reason why Zibo is so hot nowadays. The city has been known for its barbecue restaurants for years, and creating a thriving open-air BBQ entertainment environment is also something the local authorities have invested in. They are publicizing Zibo as an ambassador city for “Friendly Shandong” (“好客山东”), the slogan the province uses to promote its image and boost tourism.

The Zibo BBQ experience includes every table having its own small stove and it has that ‘do it yourself’ factor that hotpot-style dinners also have: when the skewers are served, the diners have to grill them themselves and then wrap them in thin pancakes, usually with spring onions.

Zibo barbecue, images via social media.

As one of its tourism promotion initiatives, Zibo has set up special tourist trains and dedicated BBQ bus routes to attract groups of tourists and boost local tourism after the pandemic years. Train ticket sales for May 1st already doubled that of Spring Festival, and tickets for the Beijing South-Zibo route sold out online within a minute the moment they became available.

A Kind City in Difficult Times

Another reason for Zibo’s sudden fame was suggested by some Chinese netizens (including the popular @地瓜熊老六), who said that Zibo played a special role during China’s zero-Covid policy.

Zibo first went trending after a group of students from Jinan went there in March of this year. They came to Zibo because this was where they apparently were quarantined for a while during Covid, and they were well taken care of during their stay.

According to one Zibo local, the students also celebrated their last night in Zibo at the time with a major BBQ feast.

It is said that the students from Jinan wanted to go back to Zibo at this time and spend time there as a way to thank the city – not knowing they would start a viral sensation.

Power of TikTok

Douyin, the Chinese TikTok app, is also at the heart of Zibo’s recent success.

As reported by 36kr, Zibo first became a hot topic on Douyin in early March, when the videos of the initial groups of students taking the high-speed train to Zibo to eat barbecue went viral.

In April, Zibo again hit the hot trending lists on Douyin after one vlogger tried out ten different food stalls in the city and found that they all gave him the right portions or even gave him some extra food for free, reinforcing the idea that Zibo is a hospitable city.

What followed was a snowball effect, from Douyin to Xiaohongshu to Weibo, with videos showing Zibo diners singing together while eating and having a good time spreading all over social media, only increasing the appeal of the city. “Zibo is just all over my timeline,” some commenters wrote on April 15.

Crazy Travel after Covid

According to the Chinese media platform DT Finance (DT财经), Zibo is a destination that especially resonates with Chinese students who have new wishes when it comes to traveling.

Especially during the pandemic and China’s stringent Covid measures, many people have spent a lot of time indoors, quarantined, locked down, and/or unable to travel. Now that spring is here, people want to seize the moment and go out and enjoy their leisure time. This also means that instead of planning longer holidays well in advance, people book shorter, last-minute trips.

Social media pics of Zibo trips.

This is also one of the reasons why Zibo is especially popular among students from Shandong, who can hop on a train, reach their destination, and find themselves enjoying a beer and barbecue within a matter of hours.

Stories from Zibo

In light of the craze surrounding Zibo, there are various stories emerging from the thriving city that only add to its charm. For example, there are many videos showing the lively scenes around BBQ restaurants which went viral.

One visitor needed to catch his train but still wanted a taste of Zibo BBQ, so one female shop owner hurried things along and made sure he got his Zibo dinner (#淄博老板娘为赶高铁小伙1v1烤串#).

Then there was a 95-year-old veteran who visited the Zibo BBQ scene and his visit also made its rounds on social media (#95岁老兵体验淄博烧烤被围观#).

Another trending hashtag is about Zibo’s music events (#淄博音乐节#), about some of the planned events and (rock) concerts taking place in Zibo in late April and early May. “Zibo’s cultural tourism office really understand how to do it,” various commenters wrote, praising how Zibo is not just known for its barbecue restaurants but also for its lively music scene.

Then there are the videos showing an entire crowd singing ‘happy birthday’ because one person is celebrating their birthday.

All in all, it’s clear that Zibo did something right. Especially in these times when so many cities across China are doing all they can to promote their town as a tourist destination (read all about it here), Zibo has proven that consistency is key to success: stay kind, be reliable, but most of all, keep the barbecue hot.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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