Why do some foreigners not know China?

China and the foreigners : After the entry ban comes xenophobia

This is a good time to remember how fiercely China fought against other countries' entry bans in February. This is against the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) scolded China's ambassador to Switzerland. "We need science and not rumors, we need solidarity and no stigma," Li Song said at the time. His ambassador colleague in Israel compared the entry ban for Chinese people there with entry bans for Jews fleeing during the Holocaust. He later had to apologize for it. But now there is a country that clearly exceeds these first bans - and that is China itself: Since Saturday, foreigners have generally been banned from entering the country.

The Chinese government has suspended the validity of visit, residence or work visas for all foreigners until further notice. The few exceptions apply to diplomats and “important business trips”, that is, to guests who are systemically relevant for China. The entry ban also affects all Chinese overseas who now have other passports and therefore need a visa to enter China. They no longer come into the country like this either.

China justifies the ban with the fact that the vast majority of new infections with the Sars-Cov-2 virus were recently brought in from outside, i.e. by people entering or returning. Experts express great doubts that there have actually been no new infections recently. The Chinese Ministry of Health also gave in on Monday and is now counting infected people without symptoms, namely 1541. But the business magazine Caixin doubts the official death rate for the Wuhan epicenter. According to his projections, 40,000 urns have been delivered there in the past few weeks, the government puts the number of dead in Wuhan at only 2548.

For some Chinese, nationalism is paired with xenophobia

But the danger - this image now conveys China's propaganda - comes from outside. For some Chinese, growing nationalism is now paired with xenophobia. Hotels in China's metropolises have not been accepting foreign guests for weeks. The "long noses" who are still in the country are also avoided in public. Sometimes people demonstratively turn away in the elevators or move around in the subway when a foreign-looking person gets on, reports more and more expats living in China.

The government does not help, on the contrary. Foreign Office spokesman Zhao Lijian spreads conspiracy theories that the virus was first introduced to Wuhan by the US military. Or the widespread video in which a Chinese woman from Australia went jogging in China without a mask and did not comply with the curfew or the mask requirement. It shows how little people who come from the “West” adhere to the regulations in China. She was expelled from the country and fired from her international employer in China. Most recently, the state media exploited the story of a woman who, knowing that she had the coronavirus, traveled to China because she could not have paid the treatment costs in the USA.

Up until now, western foreigners in particular have generally been well received in China. If you believe the long-time China expert Johnny Erling, who up until last year worked as a correspondent for various newspapers in Beijing for over forty years, then the good reputation of Germans in the country had already declined over the years before Corona. In private and behind the scenes, many critical Chinese believe that the Covid-19 crisis is playing into the hands of isolationist tendencies around state and party leader Xi Jinping. "Xenophobia is legitimized by Big Brother," writes one person on WeChat.

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