On March 23 I went to dinner with some Chinese at a restaurant here in Guiyang. It’s the first time that I went out to dinner here in China in the last two months. About ten days ago I was in a very significant traffic jam. Guiyang, China has an expression “Cool. Cool. Guiyang, traffic jam heaven.” (It actually rhymes in Chinese.) I hate the traffic jams. There are way too many cars and not enough capacity in the roads. When the virus hit there was about 4 weeks when the roads were almost empty. There was a car or truck every two or three seconds on a six lane road , a road that ofen has traffic backups. It is strange how the emotions work. I actually really enjoyed my first traffic jam. It meant that the worst was behind us in the quarantine. Since that time there have been almost no new cases of Covid-19, except for the imports of people returning to China from overseas.
As I write this, I remember a young lady I worked with in 2003, my first teaching gig in China. She complained a lot about the relatively harsh conditions we experienced as teachers in a new school. That school wasn’t set up for foreign teachers. We were in lockdown for the SARS quarantine. A doctor came to our room every morning and tested our body temperature. We were told that Guizhou was the only province in China to avoid getting the SARS virus. This was attributed to the large amount of Zheergen (a fish smelling herb – yuxingcao 鱼腥草) eaten by the locals, as well as a large amount of Moutai a favored drink of the locals. Moutai is a 106–proof liquor produced locally in Guizhou. No matter how much you drink, you don’t get a hangover because of it’s purity. It is possible that there is a point between very drunk the next morning and dead, where you might get a hangover, but I never found that point. I accidently tested that limit one evening, but that is another story.
Getting back to my original digression, the complaining young lady refused to honor the lockdown and against the “recommendation” of the school leaders, she travelled to another city. Upon returning she was locked in her room for thirty days and had no teaching responsibilities for the duration (I think it wasn’t a full thirty days, as the administration relented). She wasn’t paid for that time off. My room was next door to her and I spent time with her, even though she didn’t like me and the reverse was also true. We did have a TV with very few English language shows. I will never forget her excited laughter when we turned the channel and found a football game (football season was over). She said, “Wow! Its football! I don’t even like football! The moral to the story is that we can all adjust our thinking as times require. It is nothing to fear.
As of March 26, travel is getting more convenient, but the entire situation is monitored. Most public places test your body temperature and your cell phone scans report your location when entering buildings or using any public transport. Everybody still wears masks. You can feel that the country is starting to roll again. I offered a toast at the dinner the other day congratulating China on behalf of the American People for being almost free of the virus. Oops. I didn’t get the reaction I had expected. They all drank to my toast, but I could tell that the extreme quarantine had taken its toll and and that the pain of this “fight the virus” was still fresh. Also, there is a lot of propaganda about blaming America for this bio-attack on the Chinese homeland and it’s people. There will be a lot of work to do if we are to recreate an ongoing work relationship here. It will be hard to accomplish, but the US and China together can help humanity advance. If we don’t, we won’t.
If there is a takeaway from this rambling narrative, I have been locked up twice over the 17 years, and it isn’t so bad. There is an incredible solidarity of people working together, empathy for each other. There is a lot of free time, with not very much to do. It is good to have some time to think, to remember what is important. My point is that China has come through this challenge in about a six-week period after taking a massive hit in Wuhan, a transportation hub with a population of eleven million. The coordinated counterstrike by the Chinese Government has the virus on the run. The Chinese are still vigilant, but we can see the economy picking up rapidly. The people are getting more confident. China has survived the same hardship that the US is facing. As long as you have electricity, food, sewer and water, access to health care, and the other necessities (cell phone and internet) by working together you can survive. The fear of the unknown is holding the US leadership back from doing what is necessary in my opinion.
I completely agree with the assessment of Bill Gates, who has been spending a fortune to fight sicknesses around the world. He says we can’t just ignore the bodies piling up in the corner. Restarting the economy without a China style lockdown probably won’t work as planned. People will overwhelm the health care system, all health care services. Health care professionals will get sick. The economy will fail anyway because the economy needs healthy workers. The “herd immunity” which is a central feature of the plan may not matrerialize for years. Also, anticipated vaccines might not be right around the corner. We know that a full commitment to fight the virus will yield favorable results within six weeks of beginning. We haven’t begun to fight. It is time. (Come on US !)