China crumples senior plans for a return to home
While most countries have lessened restrictions in their COVID protocols, China maintains the rigidity of its anti-contagion policies as COVID resurges in cities like Shanghai. China’s zero-tolerance policy has been allegedly proven to be effective at the onset of this pandemic, and the majority of Chinese find it natural and honorable to sacrifice individual freedom for social benefits. However, after the policy lasted for two years and was yet to be lifted, citizens began to waver. Different groups of people are negatively impacted by this protracted war, including international students who must perform complicated calculus to decide whether to return home to see their families in China.
“I am afraid that I will be locked in my house in Beijing [after being quarantined in Shanghai] if the government insists on a lockdown in the city,” said senior Alesia Zhou, “My mom wants me to stay in the States for the same reason.” Regarding her in-state summer plan, Alesia responded optimistically, “I have a house here in California, so I would just stay there. There is definitely way less fun stuff I could do here, would probably fly down to LA to go to New York. I am looking into becoming an intern for an art museum (in New York), and I also really want to be a barista.” Also unable to return home to Shanghai in fear of the rigid quarantine policy, another senior, whom we’ll call “Penelope,” decided to “rent a house here [in the US] and live with friends and travel.”
In terms of the legitimacy of the Chinese government’s zero-tolerance anti-contagion policy, these two wanderers who find home distant than ever share similar opinions. Penelope remarked, “It is definitely working with the delta and the original virus. But now with omicron, I guess we don’t have to treat it as seriously, since the virus wants to survive and we want to survive as well.” Alesia also pointed out the short-term benefit of the policy: “I think the Chinese government made the right decision to close the country when covid just started in 2019 as we have a huge population and it protected the country from the virus. When I lived in China in my junior year, I felt safe living in China as I knew that I would not get covid. However, the country can not be shut forever, and people need to learn to live with the virus, so the government should adopt a better policy.”
However, both students claim that they are not the ones who experienced the most inconvenience from this lockdown. Penelope said, “We didn’t expect this coming. However, we are not among those who are heavily impacted. Our stock shrinks, but that does not affect our standards of living. We feel bad about the people who are actually suffering from other illnesses and from the quarantine policies.” Alesia: “Despite the inconveniences, I am still very lucky. I have a house here, and my parents can fly to the States to visit me. I feel very bad for my international student peers who have their families in China.”
“For me, it could be the last ‘free’ summer I have in the upcoming years, and there is so much that I miss and want to do in China. As if right now, all my Chinese friends are going back, and I feel like I am gonna be lonely in the summer if I stay here,” Alesia concluded at the end of the interview. For most Chinese international students, it is the loss of their last chance to light-heartedly hang out with friends and accompany their families that worries them most.