January 21st, 2020

mom walk

into the frying pan

You know the worst part of coming back home? Coming back home to China.

Yesterday the government not only admitted that the new Wuhan virus is transmittable between humans, they also revealed that it was detected in Shenzhen ten fucking days ago. This was kept quiet not just from the foreign media but also from the Chinese people themselves. Three people have died, hundreds more are infected, and we are in the midst of the world's largest human migration. I was on the Wuhan train a couple weeks ago. I got very sick. Should i have been worried? Did i help transmit this shit to Guangdong, or to London? What kind of garbage fire government keeps this stuff a secret? Of course there's no outrage because there's no point to express outrage. At best your social media posts will be censored or deleted. At worst you will have your social credit dinged or get thrown in prison for "causing trouble".

We flew Cathay Pacific to the UK, which is the flag carrier of Hong Kong. They have a "news" channel on their flights and it's so milquetoast as to be completely worthless. Presumably the hope is to avoid the inevitable whining if they published any real Hong Kong news, but when you're just regurgitating party propaganda you might as well not print any news at all.

It is so fucking exhausting to live under an authoritarian regime. The only way to avoid going insane is to comply. Just forget about the fact that the government is trash, don't complain, accept every new round of rules and regulations, find joy in the parts of your life that the party doesn't try to control.

People here are smart, you know, they're creative. They are able to find a lot of joy.

The thing is, they don't have the same choice i do. Chinese people are incentivized to build the best life they possibly can here, because it is very hard for them to emigrate. Even if they do emigrate it's very hard for them to break free of the regime - if they step outside the party line while overseas, they risk retribution against family members still in China. I don't have any ties here. I can leave any time i want. That makes it much more difficult for me to accept compliance as a component of joy.

I'll probably get used to it again in a few months. But every time i leave the country and come back, holy shit. It's like getting smacked in the head. Cross the border and all international websites immediately slow to a crawl, or they are blocked altogether. There is no more open discussion of politics or current events, it's either jokey memes or party propaganda. There is no culture of activism, only party-approved volunteer work. There is no graffiti, only party posters. The only life you can live is a superficial one.

Ugh.

Actually, it probably isn't all that bad, but right now is the worst possible time to return to China. In my village 19 of every 20 shops are closed. Everyone has left for Spring Festival. The streets are almost completely empty. The hustle and bustle and beautiful chaos that brings life to the city is gone. Without the people, without the community, all that's left is shopping malls and the party.