China – coronavirus and its aftermath | DW Documentary

published on June 30, 2020

China is still dealing with the effects

of coronavirus the pandemic has changed

everyone's lives there's now a new

normal it includes frequent digital

tests for the virus

first you scan this barcode that

automatically opens a health app and

when I take a look at the screen the app

says no abnormal conditions no no

abnormal conditions so I get the green

light if this were red I'd have to be

quarantined for 14 days you have to

enter all your data – including passport

information and date of birth country of

origin and the app can find out where

I've been and when but you neither the

Chinese authorities nor the manufacturer

will tell us how it works it's like a

black box

lots of places have fever scanners out


even a slight increase in body

temperature can set them off


there aren't a lot of tourists here at

the Great Wall of China even though

lockdown restrictions have eased a

little people are cautious and well

monitored at this station visitors use

their smartphones to scan a barcode this

is the first time in a long time that

Chen Shuang Shuang has left her hometown

she's here with her mother and her son

you type in your name phone number and

home address and then the app decides

whether you can come in this is just one

of many new health apps now used in

China a quick check of their body

temperature and they're off to the

summit like many in China this family

has been living with lockdown

restrictions they haven't left their

home for months

today they're taking a day trip this

section of the Great Wall is about 70

kilometers north of Beijing

it's normally crowded with tourists but

the family almost have the place all to

themselves so they don't need to wear

face masks and they can enjoy a bit of

the great outdoors we spend more time at

home now so I have to come up with new

ways to keep my son busy we play

together a lot yokai is 8 years old he

hasn't gone to school for several months

so he studies at home my mom has changed

a lot she's always at home and she's

really stressed out she gets upset fifty

seven thousand eight hundred times more

than she used to the pandemic has made

everyone more cautious we're on our way

to interview a worker and even he asked

us to use a health app this is who

you'll shoot after our apps show up

green he's satisfied that we don't pose

a health risk


who tells us that for the first time in

20 years his working life is falling

apart he used to hire himself out as a

day laborer usually at construction

sites but he says those jobs are hard to

find these days and with the lockdown

restrictions have made it more difficult

especially the social distancing

requirements but I think that we've come

through the worst months of it now she

wasn't quite sure who takes us to the

place where he and others wait for

employers to come by and offer them work

it's an unofficial labor market when we

arrived a lot of the workers get up and

leave the men are looking for work in

factories or on construction sites

people here say there are fewer jobs and

wages are lower than before the pandemic

who Yuma Shu is cautious in his comments

he doesn't want to bad-mouth the Chinese

government in front of foreign

journalists there are still some

problems but once they end the

restrictions everything will go back to

normal but the pandemic has also created

China's worst economic crisis in decades

at private employment agencies like this

one in Beijing the jobs that are offered

pay a lot less than they did just a few

months ago the equivalent of 20 euros a

day they used to pay 30

here's another unofficial job market

just a few hundred meters away day

workers wait here for employers to come

off of them work there are about 300

million migrant workers in China they

helped to fuel the country's remarkable

economic growth but now many of them are

worried about how to make

smeet there are a lot fewer jobs now

there used to be all kinds of work I've

been waiting here for days my savings

will be gone soon last year there were

jobs that paid two hundred you want a

day today the average is only 100 100

yuan works out to about 13 euros a day

we now leave the outlying districts of

Beijing and return to the heart of the


at first glance life here looks pretty

much like it did before the pandemic

but here's something new checkpoints set

up by the Communist Party's neighborhood

committees these officials decide who

can enter the area there are checkpoints

on just about every side street to take

peoples temperature a few months ago

only people who lived here were allowed

in but now you just show your health

code data and that's it

still the restrictions change constantly

depending on the level of new infections

more lockdown restrictions could be

imposed at any time and this makes it

tough for people to move freely around

the city why not that's a review there

are long lines outside some restaurants

these people don't pay much attention to

social distancing most of my life is

back to normal now because I can go to

the restaurant and the thing that

affects me a lot is I can't go back to

work so I can't get my salary much has

changed because of coronavirus many

people have lost their jobs and have

been forced to live on their savings the

fat sisters noodle restaurant has come

up with creative ideas to deal with the

situation for example the guests are

separated by plexiglass panels at their


owner duty and Chi has also distributed

these advertisements around the

neighborhood her business is doing well

despite the effects of the pandemic

would you oh sure you go soon Pat I

think it's a matter of mentality I try

to think positively after all people

always have to eat these pictures are

from late January to late March guests

were not allowed inside the restaurant

so within two weeks due had set up a

takeout service since most of her

employees had to stay home at that time

due took everything into her own hands

she's even taken extra measures to

retain the trust of her customers have a

man or a woman this takeout receipt

shows the body temperature of the cook

and the employee who packed the meal

wrong hands we also list the temperature

of the person who delivers it y'all go

wait here

during the lockdown the takeout service

accounted for at least one-third of the

restaurants turnover do didn't have to

lay off any of her workers takeout

service is still available but now

customers are returning to the

restaurants in droves and turnover is

way up du has found ways to work through

this crisis georgiadis Huber

I feel good about our situation we do a

lot of takeout business we pack up new

orders all day long I think we have just

enough people to do all the work but I

may hire one or two or more well soon

recover hi hello Joey Gorga the

government is helping out by paying the

employers share of social security

contributions for the workers for one

year that's an important subsidy for

this business meanwhile back at the

Great Wall of China

Chen Shuang Shuang and her mother and

son are enjoying their visit because of

the lockdown restrictions there are no

huge crowds like back home in Beijing

there's plenty of room to walk around

and the risk of infection here is low

but Chen and her mother are taking no

risks when it comes to the health of

gjokaj they still don't allow him to

meet with his friends that's another

complication created by the pandemic

they're about to have a meal at this

restaurant but before they're allowed in

they have to provide their names and

phone numbers and they have to have

their temperature taken in China people

often share dishes of food but today the

family have chosen to do that only among

themselves and only here in this private

room I'll eat in a restaurant out here

in the countryside but not in the city

now that the risk of infection is lower

we can take occasional day trips but

most of the time we stay at home

grandma Jiang says people have a duty to

protect themselves and others we have to

be careful avoid crowds and follow the

guidelines if everyone does that China

will prosper and things will get better

and better Chen and her family believed

that the government's policies will help

to lead the country out of this crisis

chez yang ye is a human rights lawyer

who takes a critical view of the

government's coronavirus policies the

authorities have CA under surveillance

24 hours a day we didn't know until the

last minute whether we'd be allowed to

interview him when large numbers of

people recently took to the Internet to

demand freedom of speech she a signed a

petition that called for improvements in

civil rights he says the police have

ordered him to keep quiet a whole no

rule by the way was untrue like they say

that if I don't cooperate with them you

delete my internet posts and stop

speaking out it will have negative

consequences for my family my children

and me attacking chiasm so well how did

you walk she I first heard about a new

unidentified virus last December he

became concerned after eight doctors in

Wuhan who were trying to alert the

public to the new threat were arrested

in early January they were accused of

spreading false reports about the virus

when things like that happen

we usually believe exactly the opposite

of what the government is saying

there's a saying on the internet that

what the state media defines as rumors

are more likely predictions our foreign

colleagues probably won't understand

that unless they grew up in East Germany

you ban it's a kind of bleeding of this

shei fears that the pandemic will allow

the government to increase its control

over society he's concerned about the

digital data that's entered into the

system whenever he uses a health app and

he believes that that app based

surveillance will continue long after

the threat of virus infection has passed


what she taught in the past Chinese

citizens had to provide their personal

data when they bought a train or bus

ticket or booked a hotel room Shenzhen

Center which they were also checked by

facial recognition technology now I have

to go through that process not just when

I travel but also here at home the

government now has complete coverage of

the population with facial recognition

personal data confirmation and passport

registration we're on our way to Beijing

International Airport there are strict

security controls here even though the

facility is mostly empty overseas

flights have fallen off sharply because

of the pandemic we're here to pick up a

journalist for an interview we've agreed

not to use his real name so we'll call

him Qiong BAE hi he spent the first 76

days of the lockdown in Wuhan it's been

four months since he was in Beijing the

return trip was complicated

each time he boards a plane or other

form of transport he has to register and

provide a passport number a health app

then determines whether the data is


I tried to buy a plane ticket but the

app said that under current regulations

I was not allowed to so I tried to buy a

train ticket but that didn't work either

then Joan got help from a communist

party neighborhood committee which has a

say in such matters after two days on

May the 16th I was allowed to buy a

plane ticket during his time in Wuhan

Chung wrote about individual people

who'd been affected by the pandemic in

one article I talked about a doctor who

treated coronavirus patients and then

became infected her South she was not

treated quickly was not given a hospital

bed and later died at the age of about

thirty later a lot of readers criticized

me for writing such a tragic story

nationalism is on the rise in China

right now and negative reports about

society are discouraged

Chung's article is no longer available

on the internet if you click on it you

get an error message that says I

violated the guidelines but it doesn't

give specifics it's possible that some

readers posted negative comments or

complained to the authorities Chung

still has no idea what he did wrong

not Yorker just what maybe I did break

the law but it's certainly not clear to

me which one and I don't know why the

article was censored that's it what the

authorities are also cracking down on

other journalists in Wuhan these

pictures of Li Zi hua were taken just

before he disappeared critical reporting

on the pandemic can have serious

consequences we used to work as a news

anchor for Chinese state television so

now she said there's lots of patients or

suspected patients but he quit his job

moved to Wuhan and started filing

freelance investigative reports he even

applied for a job on the night shift at

a funeral home so he could get an idea

of how many people were actually dying

in Wuhan


li was doing a live webcast at his

apartment when plainclothes police

turned up and arrested him he wasn't

seen again for two months

alcohol water lethal hockey in April he

appeared in a video and claimed that

he'd been in quarantine

but many who've seen this clip doubt

that he was speaking freely an attorney

named Chen Xiu she also filed

independent reports from Wuhan his

coverage was read by millions Chen has

not been seen since February 7th

his mother has turned to social media to

try to find out what happened to him

journalist Fong bean filmed crowded

hospitals in Wuhan a few days after he

did a video interview with German

broadcaster ard he was placed under

house arrest

Fong bin has not been seen in public

since February 9th

the government eased to lockdown

measures in Wuhan in early April before

that life was difficult the city was

sealed off and many residential streets

were blocked for weeks people were not

allowed to step outside shopping for

essentials was organized by the

neighborhood committees this is the

first time in four months that

journalist Chong bei hai has been in his

apartment in Beijing he tells us that

his experiences with the pandemic in

Wuhan affected him deeply what with this

many people especially those in families

suffering from post-traumatic stress

disorder others feel terribly guilty

because they fear that they brought the

virus into the family some he even feel

responsible for the death of a family

member to see it all for this in the

Chung's accounts of doctors and nurses

tell a grim story at the start of the

outbreak hospitals were poorly equipped

and understaffed one doctor described

how he managed to save one patient but

not another because he couldn't treat

him quickly the situation was

unprecedented the effects of the

pandemic will likely be felt for years

back at the Great Wall grandma Jiang

takes a photo of gjokaj a souvenir of

their lockdown day trip to this

world-famous structure later Jiang told

us that she's pleased with the

government's response to the pandemic I

think that other countries can learn

something from the way we've handled

this we Chinese know how to take

preventative measures and protect

ourselves and everyone follows the

government's rules and regulations many

others agree they trust in the guidance

of the Communist Party it's the

leadership who should make important

decisions not the people that's how

China works our leaders come up with

ideas and the people should obey them

and not complain too much it's for the

good of society if we all work together

we can solve problems faster but if

people have a lot of different opinions

things can get out of control that's the

difference between socialism and

capitalism I think you should be more

like China foreigners always want

freedom that freedom can kill you

there's freedom for you you get sick

keep walking around in public and infect

everyone else maybe these people are

just giving us the official government

line in any case China's leaders are

trying to portray their country as

politically and culturally superior and

a responsible world power

Chinese state TV often shows pictures of

medical aid shipments bound for various

foreign countries it's good publicity

this is who an Gong an economics

professor at Ching Wu University and a

government adviser

he says China is a world power that

loves peace fashion jolly China doesn't

want a new Cold War we want peaceful

cooperation and development that

benefits both sides but he says the US

does not want to be upstaged by another

world power China is growing and

Washington simply can't deal with that

so you tell me that's why the us is

always challenging us and the pandemic

has actually increased China's


now we're driving to the outskirts of

Beijing to a resort that was quite

popular before the pandemic a checkpoint

has been set up on this access road only

local residents are allowed to enter the

area Joo Hong Niang runs a small

restaurant here it was allowed to reopen

in April but the customers have to sit

outside do you make sure that there are

plenty of disinfectants on hand to keep

people safe customers have to go through

the usual procedures first they enter a

barcode check the health app have their

temperature taken and give their home

phone number and address

li Yu is happy to be back in business so

far this year she's lost 50% of her

turnover the virus comes back it'll ruin

us restaurant owners are having a really

tough time now this temple reopened

recently but foreigners are not allowed

to visit as a health precaution

guests at this Inn have to show health

AppData have their temperature taken and

provide a passport photo

it took almost 10 minutes to download

the right app and input all the data but

now we're good to go we start talking

with the manager but then her husband


he says born journalists can't be

trusted so she shouldn't talk to us and

the interview is over we visit a small

hotel nearby the owner has been waiting

for three months for permission to

reopen then a colleague warns him

against talking to foreigners the local

Communist Party leader has put out a

phone message it says that anyone who

talks to foreign reporters could face

serious consequences since the outbreak

of the pandemic fewer people want to

talk to us they seem to be worried about

saying the wrong thing and they don't

want to get into trouble

we return to Beijing to visit Chen and

her family following their trip to the

Great Wall we're pleased they've invited

us into their home since many Chinese

believe that foreigners could help to

spread the virus these people are part

of China's prosperous middle class Chen

has been working from home for months

her husband is a construction manager at

a state-owned company it's a secure job

but he's often on the road for weeks at

a time when he returns he helps to

home-school his son joke I can't meet

with his friends yet but he now has a

SmartWatch so he can stay in contact the

family's doing well but they still long

for the pre-pandemic days when life was

much simpler Chen says that

homeschooling her son is a real

challenge when the kids were in school

they had one teacher for each subject

but now I have to cover all of them

still we've overcome these difficulties

together we've weathered the storm and

it's been good for both of us meanwhile

grandma Jiang continues to worry about

her family's future we can't let our

guard down we have to stay vigilant

we'll be able to feel safe again only

when the virus disappears from China and

the rest of the world this family has

been living in crisis mode for five

months now like millions of others but

here at home they have peace of mind and

can escape the new normal conditions

outside the restrictions the digital

controls and fears of a new wave of


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