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Waking up to and then from the nightmare of outbreak

Updated: 2020-10-09 07:50:20


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I get the same question every time I talk with friends and family outside of China: "How is the COVID situation?"

They're not only asking because they want to confirm the actual realities with someone on the ground they personally know and trust. They're also asking because they don't know at all.

And the fact that they don't says a lot about the international media ecosystem.

Indeed, after months of questioning China's early COVID response, most global media, especially Western outlets, have forgone covering the country's subsequent containment.

As a colleague recently pointed out, the graphs Western media present ranking the responses of different countries and regions often omit China entirely.

And that's despite the fact that the country has essentially brought the epidemic under control.

As such, life has returned to normal... mostly.

My son is back in kindergarten. My daughter is back in primary school. My wife is teaching university courses in brick-and-mortar classrooms.

And our kids have also resumed such extracurricular activities as martial arts classes.

I noticed that the same day my son first returned to kindergarten was also the day when the colleague pointed out foreign media's lack of coverage of China's successful containment. It was also a day, one of many, where zero new COVID-19 cases were reported on the Chinese mainland.

Many of us felt like we were waking up to a nightmare around early February, when many things-most things-were uncertain.

The only thing that was for sure was that there was a dangerous new virus that was transforming life in ways we couldn't anticipate.

We didn't know when the lockdowns would end, when schools would reopen, when we'd be able to go outside freely, and what the infection and death rates would be. Most of us wondered if-feared-we may contract the virus.

Today, in China, it feels like we've awakened from that nightmare.

Life is essentially back to normal, with a few tweaks like temperature checks and health-app scans.

Our kids must wear facemasks all day at school and bring their own tableware. The times for pickups and drop-offs have been tightened.

Small stuff, in the big picture. And the big picture is that life is mostly as it was before the outbreak.

And I hear a tinge of congratulatory envy in the voices of US friends in particular, as US states relax lockdowns and move toward reopening despite high infection rates.

I've also discovered few such friends realize how China has made great strides toward economic recovery. It has done as well in this regard as could be realistically hoped for, given the circumstances.

I also believe it's especially telling that, amid the severe global economic crisis, the country abandoned previously expected GDP growth targets but did not abandon its mission to totally eliminate extreme poverty this year.

This truly demonstrates a people-centered approach. And it shows the leadership's priorities-that is, the well-being of all, including the most vulnerable.

The biggest disruption for our family, at this point, is that we can't make our annual trip to our hometowns to see our families.

The worst part of this is that our parents will miss at least a year of their grandkids' lives. And children are, in many ways, practically different people from year to year, even month to month when they're as young as our 5-year-old.

Still, at this point, we're happy that if we're "stuck" anywhere, it's in China, which has been our home for 14 years.

That is, a home where the outbreak has been brought under control, where life has basically returned to normal, and where we can safely work, study and live.

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