A Golden Cage is Still a Cage

The local government has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re convinced that their approach to controlling the spread of the virus has been proven correct. They point to the very low numbers of infections in China. They consider that to validate their strict social control measures. In contrast, they point to what they consider to be an out-of-control situation in the West.

It’s impossible to ignore the wide difference in transmission numbers that result from China’s approach. There is no doubt that China is controlling the spread of the virus much more successfully than other countries are.

Everything comes at a cost, of course, and China’s success in controlling the pandemic is no exception. The cost is borne by the local people. They have to deal with limitations and restrictions that disrupt their lives, in little and not-so-little ways.

A coworker told me yesterday that the city has cancelled all large, in-person events through the end of the year. All concerts, parties, exhibitions, graduation ceremonies, celebrations, have been moved to online and virtual formats. Many schools are back to holding classes online, too.

Travel has also taken a hit. When people travel, the virus travels, too. We’ve had to cancel many official trips within the country. We can take personal trips, but there’s a huge risk. If you travel outside the city, and an outbreak is discovered (“outbreak” in China means the number of confirmed cases is more than zero), the place where you are traveling to could be locked down. Your long weekend trip could be extended by 14 days, locked inside a crummy quarantine hotel. Which you have to pay for.

Although we really wanted to do more in-country travel, the risks are too high. We aren’t worried about getting sick: we’re triple-vaccinated. But in China, when an area gets locked down, no one gets in or out, regardless of vaccination status, nationality, or color of your passport. The danger of getting sick is pretty small, but the risk of massive inconvenience and disruption to our lives is quite high.

Luckily for us, we’re in Shanghai, where there’s a lot to do, see, eat, hear, experience. There is no danger of getting bored in Shanghai. The staycations that we are planning are pretty great. But the psychological effect of knowing that we have to stay in the city deducts some of the fun. Although it isn’t a bad thing, we’re stuck here.


  1. Ian Hoopingarner

    It seems that Covid-19 reminded us that our relationship with the natural world is not what it seems especially regarding animal agriculture. Once the damage control is done, though, we still can’t put everything else on hold to deal with these basic fundamentals. A conundrum.

  2. Dennie, I opened WordPress Reader today after a long absence from that function and it told me you were posting again. HURRAH! I was so disappointed when things came to a sudden halt in Bangladesh as I always enjoy reading what you are up to, what you are thinking. Also very happy to learn that you are again in China, Shanghai of all wonderful places, and feeling you are making a direct contribution again to international cooperation and friendship. Highly desirable these days. Best to you and your family for 2022. pat

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