Saturday, April 19, 2003

Richard of The Peking Duck is an expatriate living in China, but preparing to leave. He doesn't seem personally involved in high level politics, so he quotes from an article in the New York Times on SARS. He gives it high marks overall, but wants to emphasize and expand upon one point.

That last sentence contains the keys to understanding this strange nation. The obsession, to the point of insanity, that the government places on "social stability" and "harmony" makes this government an enemy to its own people. To ensure social stability and harmony, the fundamental necessity is to look good. This is a government that lives to make itself look good, so that people remain placid and accepting of (or better still, oblivious to) the shit going on around them.

Another post is from his own personal experience. All of a sudden they are disinfecting Beijing like there is no tomorrow. I went to the bank today, and two workers with buckets were scrubbing the counters and the floors and the ATM machines. I went back to the hospital and this cleaning frenzy was visible everywhere you looked, the floors, the seats, the doors, every surface was being scrubbed and the smell of disinfectants hit you in every corridor.

It's definitely a different city than it was a week ago. Business is grinding to a halt (in my industry, anyway) as more and more of the multinationals send their foreign staffs back home. Just today the US embassy put out a notice suggesting that US citizens consider foregoing trips to China until the situation has been improved. Concerts and shows throughout the city have been canceled, as no one wants to sit in close proximity to others. I was laughing a few weeks ago when I went to Singapore and saw several passengers on my plane wearing surgical masks. Now as I get ready to travel to south China I'm pretty sure I'll be wearing one as well, at least on the plane.

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