why ‘normality’ in tournaments generates frustration among Chinese with restrictions

BBC

Kerry Allen – BBC Monitoring

posted on 11/25/2022 5:47 PM


(credit: Reuters)

China’s state-run media have focused heavily on the World Cup this week, but the football matches are fueling frustration among the country’s people, who are staying on the sidelines.

In addition to the China team not qualifying for the event, scenes of maskless celebrations and noisy crowds in Qatar angered spectators, who were discouraged from gathering to watch the games.

Many used the World Cup to complain on the internet about the Covid strategies currently in place in China. The country maintains a covid-zero policy, in which entire communities go into lockdown because of isolated cases of the virus, in order to prevent it from spreading.

China this week recorded the highest number of daily cases of covid since the beginning of the pandemic, despite the strict measures adopted. Several major cities, including the capital Beijing and the southern commercial center Guangzhou, are experiencing outbreaks of the disease.

On Wednesday of this week, 31,527 cases were registered, compared to a peak of 28,000 in April. However, the numbers are still small for a country of 1.4 billion inhabitants.

A few people watch the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Shanghai, China

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In the face of new outbreaks of covid, the government has discouraged fans from gathering to watch World Cup games

symbolic presence

Football is very popular in China. The president, Xi Jinping, is known to be a lover of sport, and had previously spoken that it was a dream for the country to win the World Cup.

Therefore, the matches are being broadcast by national broadcaster CCTV, and the state media has sought to expand China’s “presence”.

The Global Times reported how products made in China “from the buses to the stadium [Lusail]and even air-conditioning equipment, are well represented at the event”.

Major media outlets such as CCTV also reported on the presence of Chinese flag bearers at the opening ceremony — and how two giant pandas arrived in Qatar to “meet” visitors arriving for the event.

President Xi Jinping kicking a ball during a visit to Dublin in 2012

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President Xi Jinping is known for his passion for football — pictured here kicking the ball during a visit to Dublin in 2012

But it is clear that covid-19 has disrupted the celebrations. In major cities, outbreaks have once again prompted non-essential businesses to close — and people have been urged to limit their movements.

With no pubs to go to, the Global Times reports that some fans are “opting to watch games at home with their families”. Others, according to the publication, preferred to go camping.

Flights between Qatar and China also remain very limited for those wanting to attend the event in person.

Posters of Son Heung-min, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk are seen at a restaurant on November 20, 2022 in Shanghai, China

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The establishments in Shanghai were prepared to receive the fans, but they are empty due to the restrictions imposed to contain the virus.

a world divided

Many are feeling intense isolation watching this year’s event.

An open letter questioning the country’s continued Covid-zero policy and asking whether China was “on the same planet” as Qatar was quickly spread on messaging app WeChat on Tuesday before being censored.

On the Twitter-like social network Weibo, there is no shortage of comments from viewers talking about how watching this year’s matches makes them feel separate from the rest of the world.

Some share the perception that it is “weird” to see hundreds of thousands of people gathered together, not wearing masks or needing to show evidence of a recent Covid-19 test.

“There are no separate seats so people can maintain social distance, and there is no one dressed in white and blue [médico] backstage. This planet has truly become divided.”

“On one side of the world there is the carnival that is the World Cup, on the other there is the rule not to go to public places for five days”, says another user.

Some say they have difficulty explaining to their children why the World Cup scenes are so different from what people witness at home.

There are many people in China, however, who criticize the opening of countries abroad, while the World Health Organization (WHO) still classifies the virus that causes covid-19 as an “acute global emergency”.

So far, there is no prospect of ending the existing measures in China. This week, the spokesman for the National Health Commission “warned against any slackening in the prevention and control of the epidemic” – and called for “more resolute and decisive measures” to control cases of the disease.

Local governments in major cities reintroduced mass testing and travel restrictions — and ultimately got the message across that people should try to stay home.

But after three years of such measures, people are frustrated, sparking protests last month in the cities of Guangzhou and Zhengzhou.

– This text was published in https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-63753918

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