Seventy Percent Recovered — Covid-19 Update 20200410

This post has been five days in the making and still isn’t done.  The darn Iphone, that new model that is so “user friendly” has been fighting me on givng up the videos that really make this post come alive . . . I will add the video and photos later n the interest of time . . . jsp20200416.

My unscientific reckoning is that Guiyang has recovered to about 70%, of the economic activity prior to the outbreak.  The virus is about 99% destroyed. I believe that perhaps this is a fair proxy for the other areas in China. This 70% is my guess of the back to work people. Business is not good because a lot of people lost money.

About ten days ago I got caught in a traffic jam. I really do hate Guiyang trafic jams. This was the first one in about six weeks. It meant that people are getting back to work.  The theaters are closed, no concerts, large gatherings are prohibited, and to some extent, some restaurants are still closed. Schools are expected to begin opening next week. In fact there are two grades, for age 15 to 17 that are already open.  They are studying for the national exam..

A friend of mine has closed his restaurant and moved away because business was bad, even though it was legal to open.  Most people are still wearing their face masks. Of course in the the restaurants masks are not particularly useful.  I believe people are also still shy about going out to restaurants because they don’t want to get the virus. We have had little sign of the virus for weeks now. It is clear to me that a complete job of virus eradication can take place in six to eight weeks of intense effort. Then you must be on guard for hotspots. It probably isn’t possible in the USA. I have friends that are outraged that our Governor wants people to stop golfing until the the virus is under control.

There is confidence in the public that hte virus is not a significant danger right now. There are people standing in groups in public places, some with masks and others, not. This video was taken about April 8.   Huaguo Yuan Shopping area They seem to have the confidence that the very strict methods for controlling the virus will work, and can be reimposed should there be a flairup. Every taxi, bus, or train has a cell phone scan to make sure contact tracing can be done should someone get sick.

On the Bus

Public buildings have the same kind of cell phone ID and location scanning. If someone gets sick, the government will trace the people that the sick person came in contact with. The video below was taken about a week ago and, about April 10 and shows the scanning process as well as the casual nature of the “Social Distancing” Chinese style.

I think that Wuhan was shut down on January 23 and Guiyang was shutdown about January 26.   About this time I got a phone call from the local police.  I didn’t know that they were police.  Usually when somebody calls me speaking Chinese I don’t understand what you’re saying.  I just say in Chinese that  I am a foreigner and don’t understand what they are saying.  Then I hung up.  This person persisted and called me again.  This time she called me by my Chinese name.  So I decided that since only  the people with my Visa knew my Chinese name, I assumed they were police.I struggled through the Chinese and managed to talk to them about what they were thinking.  They have a list of all the foreigners living in Guiyang.  They called every one of us.  I checked with my friends and they all received a telephone calls like this.  A friend has a legal visa to live in China but he has not registered with the local police department. I don’t know if he got a call.

So the phone calls from the local police served several functions. They wanted to make sure that I was OK, that I was wearing a face mask, and to update their list as to where all the foreigners were living in Guiyang.  I confirmed my English and Cinese names, my phone number, my WeChat (similar to WhatsApp) address, my emergency contact, etc. I really didn’t know how to explain to the police that I didn’t have a good face mask. I was using a scarf at the time. As you would expect, all the stores were sold out of facemasks. I finally was able to ask them if they could get me a face mask. They said that they didn’t have any extra face masks. I decided to just contnue searching.  Of course that was rediculous. The last thing anybody wanted was a foreigner going from store to store, without a mask on, looking for a facemask. After I hung up, an  hour later a policeman showed up at my door and gave me facemask. That was a good solution.  He was the guy in charge of the neighborhood police, and I was able to meet him and get his WeChat address.  We took pictures of each other. We then saluted rather than shake hands at the end of the meeting.
As I write this on April 12, Guiyang out seems pretty normal.  I am fairly well known in my neighborhood and I feel safe.  I’ve lived here for three years and people recognize me.  I think that’s because I’m very fat and and very white, with a big nose (Chinese often comment on how fat I am and what a big nose I have).  So I feel like it’s no problem for me.  I have seen some information about blacks who have been targeted as being Covid-19 carriers.  There has been some racist views online that has made it uncomfortable. In some cities blacks in particular, especially in Guangzhou there has been some trouble . . .  Nigerian blacks being evicted.  Hopefully this will diminish as the memory of the virus diminishes.  If it grows then I can see how whites could also be targeted.  It was particularly difficult when some of the Chinese were accusing the U.S.  of a bio-attack.  In response our leadership (the USA President)  labeled the virus the “W***n” virus, or the “Ch***se” virus. (Incidentally, sometimes the “bots” are set up to block inflamatory language on websites coming into China. I use *** because I don’t want this page to be blocked.)

There seem to be two impediments to a rapid return to prosperity right now.  Restaurants are open, but business is not so good. As my friend, the restaurant owner, pointed out, people lost a lot of money during the six to eight week shutdown. They just don’t have a lot of extra money for discretionary spending. The second block is a bit more difficult. the Chinese still have a very significant dependency on international trade for income.  As the borders around the world are closed and airlines shut down, China is losing a lot of income. Accordingly, a full recovery in China depends on an expansion in world trade, and recovery in its major trading partners. The world trade leader  is the USA, and the USA is still failing after three and a half months. World trade was falling prior to the Covid-19 due to the trade war. There is no coherent plan of attack on the virus.  This bodes ill for the future of the world economy, and the USA economy in particular.

On the trade front, if nobody knows if an American is sick with a virus, no American will be permitted to cross the border of a foreign country. This is a very, very uncomfortable situation for people trying to predict the future economic activity in America or China. Will the USA continue to be a trading nation? Three months ago the USA was the world’s largest economy and the world’s most active trading nation. Three months or three years from now, who knows when this situation will be resolved?

China is steadfast in fighting the virus. About a week ago I went  to my old residence, a factory. The factory has rooms for workers, and I rented two of them. When I moved into my new place, I left one room and saved the other for storage.  I have a friend with a lot of books that I stored for him and he pays the rent. My friend saved all his books for over 20 years and thinks he is going to return to China and use them, or maybe donate them to a worthy cause. (Ray’s Library ) I also have some of my stuff stored in there as well. I hope to use that room if I am told to leave China, currently scheduled for two months from now.  A week ago, when I went to check out the books and my stuff in storage, I was stopped at the Bazhai Road checkpoint. That checkpoiont is about 1/4 mile from my current residence. The security in China is still very diligent, protecting every neighborhood from any possible source of virus. They wanted to know who I was and what was my business there.  I told them that I was there to check my stuff that I had in storage.They called for backup and asked me to sit down. I refused.

This was my old neighborhood and people knew me. I had bought veggies and eggs at the old outdoor market I used to shop at. I had the eggs in my back pack.  I was afraid that if I sat down, then I would forget about the eggs and eventually lean back, crushing the eggs in my backpack. I was asked to wait and several times I was asked to sit down. I refused. I usually do what I am asked to do by the authorities, but this time I was a bit annoyed and was really worried about crushing the eggs. While I was waiiting for the beaurocracy to do it’s thing, My old student came by and just hung around. This was  three years ago that I lived in that the factory apartment and the landlord’s daughter had studied English with me. I didn’t recognize her with her mask, and she had grown from 14 to 16. She hung around and confirmed that I did indeed have an apartment in her neiighborhood. While we were waiting, my old landlord (her father) showed up and only stayed for a little while.  A little while later, the guy that used to sell me my drinking water came by and said “Hi”.

When the little boss from  the police showed up (the backup) he was talking on the phone for some time and then asked me if I wore glasses. I said yes, sometimes I do for reading, and I showed him  the glasses. He pulled up a cell phone photo of me wearing glasses, with the big boss of the police department.  The big boss remembered that he had a picture of me. They confirmed that I hadn’t gone anywhere outside of the neighborhood in the last 14 days and that I lived in the neighborhood. From then on, it was no problem.  My former student accompanied me throughout the neighborhood. I bought some beer from a tiny little grocery story next to my old apartment and of course the student carried the beer. I had brought the wrong key to the apartment and we had to talk to “Grandma” who I had left an extra key with. I got into the apartment and confirmed that everything was ok, and selected an old full lenght mirror that had been in storage. I was done.

Before leaving I surveyed Ray’s old library and asked my old student if she needed any English books. She said she already had too many English books, thanks but no thanks.  Then I notied the algebra/trig book. It was an English/American math book. I asked her about her age and she was sixteen, just the right age for algebra and trig.

Back in the USA I had a very small robotics business and one of my friends was a Chinese native PhD, in the Oakland Univesity Engineering Department. He had told me that he was the “go to” guy when Chinese engineering students needed help with math. The Chinese that come to the USA are typically very good in math. The only problem is that they learned math in Chinese, rather than English. These kids have a terrible time transitioning between Chinese and English math. My PhD friend helps them with the transition.

Anyway, I asked my old student how her math was, and she said just so so. I told her that she needs another Algebra/Trig book at her age and I pointed out that an English math book might help her understand the math better also. Her English was pretty good. I told her that Ray wanted her to have the math/trig book, but if he asks for it back, then she must give it to him.  She was so happy. I hope it helps her. She might be another imported Chinese engineer. Heaven knows our STEM program in the USA could use a boost!

That was a small gesture of offering a math book to a young girl in a poor part of China.  A math book helps women in general, letting her know that she is important. It also helps the USA attract students, and even future scientists who speak English, I hope.  Perhaps this young Chinese girl can take the bit in her teeth and help turn around the USA brain drain. Articles about the H-1b American brain drain shows us just how fast national fortunes can turn around. Now, rather that attracting talent from around the world, the Trump administration seems to be doing its best to get rid of immigrants, no matter how much they might contribute to our economy in the West: