It is the Start of Winter (立冬) and China is seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases across the country.
There currently are approximately 40,000 confirmed Covid cases in the mainland, with the biggest outbreaks taking place in Guangdong, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang.
At the same time, frustrations over strict lockdowns and excessive anti-epidemic measures have been building recently, and there has been a lot of anger over a lack of emergency medical care for people in isolation in, among others, Ruzhou, Lanzhou, and Hohhot.
On Monday, November 7, political commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief of Global Times, commented on China’s ‘dynamic zero’ Covid policy. Hu does so more often – in September 2022 he also published a lengthy post about China’s epidemic prevention.
China’s zero Covid policy is all about the speedy detection of new cases, followed by a quick response to curb the spread of the virus immediately and bring the epidemic situation under control. Because it is an ongoing process, it is called ‘dynamic zero’ (动态清零), with cases being extinguished soon after they are detected and with the eventual goal of having zero new infections in society (社会面清零).
The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, made a few noteworthy comments in his recent post.
Hu suggested that the strict lockdowns in some parts of China are just not sustainable and that cities should stop striving to reach complete elimination of Covid cases. Instead, he advocated for a more relaxed and local approach, but did point out that Chinese cities could perhaps get back to focusing on reaching “zero” cases in the summer of 2023 (“到了明年夏天，也许一些城市可以重新追求零感染”).
By adhering to a model where Chinese regions stay in complete control when it’s about the spread of the virus, China will have drastically fewer deaths than in the West and its ‘dynamic zero’ approach will be remembered as a historical, “world-renowned achievement,” according to Hu.
“If we can remain in overall control and can keep the number of deaths far lower than in the West (..) then our epidemic prevention will benefit all 1.4 billion Chinese people, and will shine throughout history!”
Early on in his post, Hu Xijin suggests that the goal of ‘zero Covid’ is not actually to reach zero cases, but to keep the Covid outbreak in China under control:
“The ‘dynamic zero’ [policy] is not really about pursuing zero infections at all times, it is about continuing to keep the epidemic situation under control. Reaching absolutely zero infections should not be the goal of every city for this winter; by summer of next year, some cities can perhaps again pursue to have zero infections, but it is not realistic for this winter season. Thoroughly eliminating an especially active virus would exceed the basic level management capabilities in the majority of cities and the situation in Urumqi, Zhengzhou, and other cities shows that even if you carry out strict and lengthy lockdowns, the virus still continues to spread throughout the community.”
Hu Xijin suggests that Beijing is the number one city in China when it comes to efficiently implementing Covid measures and responding to new cases. Yet, even Beijing is now seeing a spike in new cases, so Hu’s reasoning is that if Beijing can’t even reach ‘zero’ Covid, then no other city can.
If ‘zero’ Covid is impossible, Hu implies, cities might as well be a bit more relaxed in their epidemic approach because the socio-economic cost of doing city-wide or district-wide lockdowns is so high, while the effects might be relatively minimal: Covid will still find a way. Hu writes:
“Beijing hasn’t carried out a large-scale lockdown, and the economic and social life in the city has been the most relaxed of the nation. Lockdowns have all been done locally [small-scale], and as everyone saw, Beijing held its first marathon in three years yesterday. That’s another step forwards. When there are outbreaks in other cities, especially when cases are scattered, and cities want to reach ‘zero Covid,’ they can only do that through the method of wide-scale or even total static management. But even if it is done like that, it does not mean they can realize a total elimination of Covid cases this winter while the social and economic costs of pursuing a ‘zero Covid’ goal are actually too high. The reality across the country is that people are less and less willing to cooperate with area-wide static management [lockdowns]. Regardless of whether you look at it from the standpoint of public opinion or from that of the financial burden, it is not sustainable to go on like that.”
Hu suggests that focusing on keeping infection rates low is more effective than maintaining a ‘zero’ Covid policy. By focusing on lower numbers instead of zero cases, cities can keep the burden on social and economic life low, while also avoiding an epidemic crisis. This basically is what ‘dynamic zero’ is all about.
In the conclusion of his post, Hu calls China’s epidemic prevention a “world-renowned success” that has saved the lives of millions of people over the past three years:
“Facing new circumstances, if we can maintain complete control, and can keep the number of deaths far lower than in the West while also safeguarding our economy and the order of social development, then our epidemic prevention – at every stage and in its entirety – and its achievements will benefit all 1.4 billion Chinese people, and will shine throughout history!“
Hu Xijin’s lengthy post and rose-colored outlook on the future of Covid zero received over 11,000 ‘likes’, but clearly did not impress all of his readers. Some replied: “So you’re basically just explaining the concept of the zero Covid policy again?” “Beijing the most relaxed?” others wondered.
“Stop wide-scale nucleic acid testing!” some said, with others replying: “We can’t continue to blindly follow the zero Covid policy.” “Listen to the voices of the people.”
Another commenter replied: “If we still want to be practical and realistic, we must admit that zero Covid is impossible, and we can’t pay such a high price to go on a mission that will never end. We should revise the general policy and insist on controlling the scale, protecting lives, and preventing hospitalization.”
Some who replied did agree with Hu’s words, writing: “A world-renowned success: it highlights the necessity of unswervingly insisting on ‘dynamic zero’!”
“What must we hold on to? The dynamic Zero Covid policy! Let the West lie flat, because the pandemic will have serious repercussions for them.”
Hu Xijin is not the only Chinese opinion maker who is describing the country’s zero Covid strategy as one that will go down in history as a glorious victory.
In late October, a short video went viral on Twitter showing a Chinese businessman giving a speech in which he claimed China would come out of the pandemic as the winner since the West would be brought to its knees because of the long-term impact of the pandemic. He explicitly mentioned long Covid and its supposed devastating effects on the labor force in the West.
A Chinese business consultant in a Ted-style talk justified zero-Covid policy by saying that in 10 years the West will be brought to its knees b/c long-Covid, which will decimate most of its labor force. pic.twitter.com/kQRTDYE813
— Yanzhong Huang (@YanzhongHuang) October 30, 2022
“I can only say, you’d have to be stupid if you want to give up [lie flat] now. We definitely cannot give up now. What must we hold on to? The dynamic Zero Covid policy! Understand? Let the West not do anything [lie flat], because the pandemic will have serious repercussions for them. So we definitely cannot let it go. So as an ordinary consumer, an ordinary citizen, we cannot forget national humiliation. The people inside the system are much smarter and more advanced than we are. You do not get the basic picture at all. (..) Just do what you’re told. We will win. If the epidemic continues another ten years, we don’t need to fight anymore, the whole world will have fallen.”
The man speaking is Gu Junhui (顾均辉), a finance, business, and strategic positioning expert with a very small following of 336 fans on his Weibo account.
As Gu’s video was widely shared on Twitter, it also started circulating on Chinese social media, where the majority of commenters dismissed Gu Junhui as another self-proclaimed ‘expert’ riding his high horse: “Nobody is listening to this idiot.”
Others ridiculed him for such a stance, writing: “So China can finally win if the West dies out?!” Some even suggested that Gu was a comedian instead of a finance expert.
Despite the online banter, Gu’s vision of China’s dynamic zero Covid future is a recurring one in China’s online media sphere, where other bloggers and authors also measure China’s success through U.S. failures.
Blogger/author Lu Xiaozhou (@卢晓周) wrote on Weibo on November 8 that the U.S. will be drained out because it chose to “lie flat” and live together with Covid-19, a virus that is unpredictable and which scientists around the world still have not figured out.
He says that China, on the other hand, is maintaining a balance between social stability and economic development through its dynamic zero Covid policy.
According to Lu, it’s simple: dynamic zero Covid is “right” whereas coexisting with the virus is “wrong.”
“The dynamic zero Covid policy comes at a high price, and when we give up dynamic zero, we will welcome a big epidemic wave. No matter if it happens this year, next year, in five years’ time, in ten years’ time, or in fifty years’ time, that moment will eventually come.”
During a press conference Saturday, Chinese health officials stated that China would “unswervingly” stick to its zero Covid policy. A hashtag about the topic (#坚持动态清零总方针不动摇#) received 220 million views on Weibo.
In October of this year, Chinese Party newspaper People’s Daily (人民日报) already published an article titled “Dynamic Zero Is Sustainable and Must Be Adhered To” (“动态清零”可持续而且必须坚持”) (read more).
It is clear that many commenters have a less rose-colored view of the future of ‘zero Covid’ than some of the opinion makers.
One Zhejiang-based doctor named Gong Xiaoming with over 4,6 million followers on Weibo (@龚晓明医生) had a more sober expectation of the future:
“I was prohibited from posting for three months last year after I commented on the epidemic, but I still want to speak my mind. The dynamic zero Covid policy comes at a high price and when we give up dynamic zero Covid, it means we will welcome a big epidemic wave. That moment in time, no matter if it happens this year, next year, in five years’ time, or in ten years’ time, or in fifty years’ time, it will eventually come. So the authorities in every region must ask themselves one question: when then moment comes, are we ready?”
Dr. Gong continues:
“The 1 per 1,000 mortality figure is backed by enough medical resources, and it will probably be higher when there is an instant influx of patients and we don’t have enough medical resources. What is even more important in relation to the mortality rate is: do we have enough intensive care beds? If we still have another year, then let us please use this precious time to strengthen the establishment of the ICUs at local hospitals, to set up respiratory intensive care units, and let use this time to purchase good mechanical ventilators and equipment, strengthen the staff team, especially the medical team, which is not something that can be done within a day or not even within a month. A month ago I paid a visit to a county town with 200,000 inhabitants and the county hospital did not have one single IC bed. This made me deeply concerned. Perhaps I’m overly anxious, and the government might already be taking these steps, but if regional leaders have the vision, please strengthen your local hospital’s intensive care medical departments. Our timeframe is getting shorter. In addition to the construction of ICU, there is also medication, vaccines and other issues that need to be considered.”
Dr. Gong uses graphs with data from Taiwan to support his story, showing an uptick of cases after Taiwan let go of its own ‘zero Covid’ policy in April of 2022.
Other voices also express similar visions on the future of dynamic zero in China, seeking for science-based prospects and realistic strategies: “I really hope that the authorities can provide timely and accurate information. The main point is not whether or not we should have the dynamic zero policy, but rather how we can go forward with dynamic zero on a scientific basis,” another popular blogger (@卢麒元) wrote.
Although Dr. Gong’s post was reposted hundreds of times, the comment section was not available at the time of writing (“抱歉，该内容暂时无法查看”).
Political commentator Hu Xijin should be able to appreciate Dr. Gong’s input. In September of this year, Hu argued that more Chinese experts should come forward with suggestions and views based on science in order for the online discourse to focus more on science and rationality rather than letting “discussions be dominated by loud voices on social media.”
Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:
©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Repurposing China’s Abandoned Nucleic Acid Booths: 10 Innovative Transformations
Abandoned nucleic acid booths are getting a second life through these new initiatives.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Weibo Watch: Walking on Eggshells
“Elderlies” in Their Thirties: The Growing Interest of Chinese Youth in Nursing Homes
Changsha Restaurant Employee Pays the Price after Protecting Abused Child
Bad Apples? Chinese Actor Liu Jin Smashes iPhone 13 Pro Max, Anger over ‘Chinese’ Employee Photo on Apple Website
“Oppenheimer” in China: Highlighting the Story of Qian Xuesen
Subscribe to our newsletter
Behind 8 Billion Streams: Who is Dao Lang Cursing in the Chinese Hit Song ‘Luocha Kingdom’?
About Wang Yi’s “You Can Never Become a Westerner” Remarks
Russian Perspectives, Ridiculing Putin Supporters: Chinese Online Media Responses to the Wagner Mutiny
Chinese Tourists in Europe: Getting Robbed Is Part of the Experience
Jiangsu Woman Takes Smiling Selfie with Injured Victim in Background
When White People Discovered China’s ‘White People Food’ Trend
Zhang versus Zhang: An Online Debate over the Value of Studying Journalism in China
Paper over Cracks: Online Frustrations about Official Language Sugarcoating China’s Youth Employment Crisis
“Unrestrained” and “Fearless”: Chinese Messi Fan’s Pitch Invasion Ignites Memes and Admiration
Get in touch
Would you like to become a contributor, or do you have any tips or suggestions for us? Get in touch with us here.
China Arts & Entertainment2 months ago
Behind 8 Billion Streams: Who is Dao Lang Cursing in the Chinese Hit Song ‘Luocha Kingdom’?
China Insight3 months ago
About Wang Yi’s “You Can Never Become a Westerner” Remarks
China Media3 months ago
China Travel1 month ago
Chinese Tourists in Europe: Getting Robbed Is Part of the Experience