Peter Hessler reporting on China’s coronavirus response

“How China Controlled the Coronavirus”, a New Yorker article by Peter Hessler, details his experience as a journalism professor at Sichuan University. Hessler is a long-time writer at the magazine and he’s considered by many Chinese to be their favorite writer on China.
posted by of strange foe (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a great piece – I was planning to post it tomorrow but I’m glad it’s already up now! 😉 It’s a really touching reflection and it’s about so much more than just coronavirus. I particularly enjoyed these two sections:

Each day, my daughters had their temperature taken at least five times. This routine began at 6:30 a.m., when the class’s WeChat parent group engaged in something called Jielong, or “Connect the Dragon.” One parent would start the hashtag #Jielong, and list her child’s name, student number, temperature in Celsius, and the words “Body is healthy.” One by one, other parents jumped in—“36.5, Body is healthy”—lengthening the list with every dragon link. My account usually had about sixty of these messages every day. After eight o’clock, impatient notes were sent to stragglers: “To so-and-so’s father, please quickly connect the dragon!”

I lived in fear of the dragon. My mornings were a mess of fiddling with apps; one consisted of a daily form for the university on which I listed my temperature, location, and whether I had had contact with anyone from Hubei, the province that contains Wuhan, in the past fourteen days. If I missed the noon deadline, an overworked administrator sent a gently passive-aggressive reminder. (April 11, 12:11 p.m.: “Hi Teacher Hessler, How are you doing today?”) In addition, a QR code with a health report had to be scanned every morning for each of my daughters. I often felt overwhelmed, not to mention a little odd: during the first month of dragon-connecting, I received 1,146 WeChat messages listing the body temperatures of third graders.


I worried about my daughters, who were the only Westerners at a school of some two thousand students. Our isolation increased throughout the spring: most of my American acquaintances had left, and it became rare to see a non-Chinese person on the street. At the end of May, the twins told my wife, Leslie, and me that a boy in their class had made some anti-American comments, but we didn’t say anything to the teacher. Virtually all of the girls’ classmates treated them warmly, and, with everything on the news, it seemed inevitable that there would be scattered instances of anti-American sentiment. That week, George Floyd had been killed, and the American death toll from the coronavirus was approaching a hundred thousand.

The teacher, though, responded quickly. The following Monday, she stood before the class and told a story that, in the Chinese way, emphasized science, education, and effort. She talked about Elon Musk, and she described how his California-based company had successfully launched a manned rocket into space the previous weekend. At the end of the story, she said, “Every country has its strong points and its weak points.”

Turns out Elon Musk is good for something after all!
posted by adrianhon at 8:39 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]