At a Beijing restaurant, clerks wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)
Diamond Bar High School

Column: How COVID-19 affects Chinese society

Many people would consider 2019 as the year of extraordinary challenges for the Chinese government. They not only needed to take a stand in their position about the import taxes in the trade war with America toward the end of 2018 till now, but they also needed to deal with the protest movement in Hong Kong which happened during the middle of 2019, according to BBC.

Moreover, apart from international factors, the Chinese government also had to suppress serious corruption problems and some negative social influence inside society.

Meanwhile, the government continued their support of African countries in order to maintain friendly relationships, so that they can later use African natural resources and gain political support in the UN.

At the start of a new year, just when all Chinese are happily preparing their food and activities for their traditional Chinese New Year, the panic of 2020 started — coronavirus.

The virus was first found in Wuhan, China, and the official reason is that Wuhan people ate wild animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Science Alert, it is a type of disease which is 88% similar to SARS, another disease that spread in 2003 and caused 744 people to die. COVID-19 has a much lower death rate than SARS, according to the UK’s National Health Service website

However, since the transportation system today is more reliable and widespread than before, coronavirus has become a global problem.

In fact, COVID-19 has a very strong mode of propagation, as people would not notice whether they are affected by the virus or not until about two to 14 days later, according to the CDC. Therefore, it is hard to keep up with the spread of the virus.

Now the problem of the disease not only led to health problems among people but also led to a deeper political and social influence, especially in China.

Politically, the Chinese government absolutely has all the responsibility. Just before the virus outbreak in China, some Chinese citizens already reported the unusual illness in Wuhan.

However, the Wuhan government not only treated this as a rumor, but also captured those people for spreading the rumor and destroying the peace of society, according to Poynter.

Moreover, the first investigation by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention erroneously claimed that this type of virus would not transmit from person to person.

As a result, China missed the best time to fix the problem. As reported in the New York Times, when the Chinese government realized the seriousness of this virus, everything was too late.

Wenliang Li, a doctor in China who was one of the first people that reported this situation, died on Feb. 6 from the virus, according to BBC.

His death became an alarm for most Chinese that recognize the limitation on their liberty. More and more people realize their human rights have been taken by the government, such as their freedom of speech and press. 

In fact, the outbreak of COVID-19 reflects an unstable social structure in China. CNN reported that one Chinese news journalist reported on the corruption of the government and that the Chinese Red Cross did not give the donated supplies to Wuhan people for those in need.

However, this news had only been up on the internet for a few hours and later was shut down by the Chinese government. Many donation organizations also cut down on the supplies actually delivered to Chinese cities. 

These reports on corruption in a time people needed help the most absolutely angered Chinese citizens. For instance, a Chinese citizen now residing in America, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, wanted to donate N95 masks to China to help the citizens deal with the situation.

However, when he sent the supplies and they went through customs, the government “taxed” 30% of supplies, so that only 70% of the masks he sent actually arrived at the hospital for the Chinese citizens to use.

Therefore, the only way that he could deliver the masks is by hand — he and his friends flew to China themselves bringing along the masks for donation as part of their luggage. It was the only way they could ensure that 100% of the masks got to the people who needed them.

Moreover, instead of helping each other, many people used these opportunities to increase the prices of supplies and make money. As reported by Mercury News, a drug store in Beijing was fined for selling masks six times higher than the usual price. 

“Even the hospital does not have enough masks for those doctors,” said a doctor from a hospital in Fujian, China, who requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. “Sometimes we reuse a mask for a couple days and some doctors did not even drink any water for a day in order to keep the usage of masks.”

Even more, as reported by Daily Mail, a couple from Nanjing even left their children in the airport and fled by themselves because the children had fevers. 

Due to Wuhan being the start of COVID-19, many people have already started to consider Wuhan people as criminals of society; it is already a local discrimination problem.

This is also happening outside of China, as the “anti-Chinese” and “no Chinese allowed” signs are already all over the place. Right now, discrimination is not only for Chinese people but also for Asians who wear masks. These phenomena also exist in schools, workplaces and restaurants. 

Chinese people are proud due to the fast economic development in China across many areas; however, fast economic development has led to an unstable social structure, for corruption is rampant in society.  A corrupt absolute government is a detriment. This kind of event is not the first time that it has happened in China.

As explained by NPR, The Great Chinese Famine happened from 1959 to 1961 and caused millions of people to die, and in the end, people resorted to eating each other.

Probably, you would consider this as an old society’s dark side of humanity due to an unsustainable social structure. However, it is also similar to today in the selfishness and ignorance of the upper class and government officers in China today. 

Right now, many non-governmental businesses in China including individual citizens who want to help have stepped up and tried their best to help those that are affected by COVID-19. 

More and more people realize the unreliability of the Chinese government. It is hard to tell how COVID-19 will change the Chinese people and government, but it is certain that it will change.