For much of last year, China was cited as a role model for the management of the Corona “pandemic”. After the first few weeks they halted the lockdowns, and public spaces in China seemed normal compared with those of the West.
All that changed in early 2022. After a surge of new “cases”, Shanghai went into a draconian lockdown. Our Hungarian correspondent László sends this translated report on what life is like for Hungarian expats in Shanghai.
Life after the Great Reset
Stories from China, the Test Lab of the New World Order
What will life be like in the promised New World Order after the Great Communist Reset? Look at China to get an idea.
A group of Hungarian expats living in Shanghai, China sent their stories home in a podcast — a report from the infamously cruel “Shanghai lockdown”.
However, one may have the impression that these people either do not know the whole truth or they are afraid to tell it. The article below adds another layer of propaganda to the accounts, as it was written by a globalist Hungarian news outlet, 24.hu. Read between the lines:
“It’s very depressing to eat what I have, not what I want”
May 7, 2022
Butter and bread are considered rarities in Shanghai, which has been under lockdown for more than a month. Hungarians living in the 26-million-strong Chinese metropolis told us about the strictness due to the Covid cases, how they spend their days inside their homes, and where their first journey will lead them once the lockdown is finally lifted.
We’re locked up in the winter and we go out in the summer
This is the brief summary of the current situation by members of a group of Hungarian friends who have launched a podcast called Lockdown — Omicron Adventures in Shanghai.
Shanghai was hermetically sealed off at the beginning of April. At that time the news said that the measure was going to be in effect for four days, but since then most districts have not allowed people to go out.
Attila Balogh, who has been living in China for 28 years, said the zero-Covid policy devised by China worked great, but only until the Omicron variant came along.
“Until then, everything was great. Wherever they found an infected person, they tested them quickly and efficiently, isolating neighbourhoods, districts, cities. The country was working, one could do all sorts of things you couldn’t do at home [in Hungary],” he explained.
He noted that the Chinese state had made a legitimacy issue out of the control of the epidemic, in order to prove that the political system was better than the Western one. Nobody wants that approach any more, but at the narrative level it would be difficult to back down at this point.
Attila Balogh went on to say that Shanghai’s ordeal had already begun in mid-January. That was the first time the apartment building where they live was closed down after one of the residents was identified as a close contact. They were tested every 12 hours and after 48 hours everyone was allowed to go about their business. At that time, the procedure was that if an office building was infected, everyone was locked up for a few days while life went on in the city. But this could not go on indefinitely because the number of infected people was increasing. The government therefore decided to revert to the zero-Covid policy, and a policymaker from Beijing started to handle things with an iron fist.
Breathing fresh air outside, after 26 days
The entire city was centrally ordered to be locked down on 1 April, but Péter Ákos Fodor has been unable to go anywhere since 30 March, after a close contact was identified in his apartment building. From that moment on, they were not allowed to go out the front door, not even to the yard.
To understand the whole picture, he said, it is also important to know that China does not have housing estates like the one in Békásmegyer in Budapest. Where he lives, there are between 45,000 and 50,000 people living in 32-storey buildings with more than 100 staircases and numerous entrances. It’s like a small town.
For more than a month now, the rules have been enforced by employees of housing management, dressed in white protective gear. Peter Ákos Fodor said that no one is taken away in handcuffs if they go outside for some air, but they are immediately asked what they are doing there and warned that they had better go back in their flat. You can’t just hang around outside.
“Last Monday, after 26 days, we were allowed to go out of our apartment complex; we were not allowed to leave the apartment until then. But we still can’t walk on the street,” he explained.
In a related story, Mihály Giber, the other creator of the podcast, who is also a member of that group of friends, said that they are in a slightly luckier situation because they have a small garden in front of their ground-floor home where they go out every day to play badminton, even if they were “ratted on” twice by the landlord at the beginning.
They eat what they have
For those of us living in Hungary, it is increasingly just a memory what we did to pass the time when we were under lockdown. Hungarians in Shanghai mentioned one odd pastime, though, among many others: trading with food. They are not allowed to leave their homes, nor can they go to the shops, most of which are in any case closed. The government does send basic foodstuffs to households, but there is very little.
The central food delivery varies from district to district, but as the Hungarians put it, “if we relied on this alone, we would starve.”
When we asked them what was included in such a package that is free of charge, and whether it contained butter or bread, they laughed and said, “Are you kidding? That’s a luxury”. However, they agreed that in general the quality of the packages was improving, but that they mainly consisted of vegetables such as cucumbers and cabbage, as well as rice and eggs.
Bread and butter are therefore unimaginable because they cannot even be bought. It is possible to order food from grocery stores, but it requires good organisation within the community and the use of the grey zone.
Home delivery is not allowed as a general rule, but there are some shops that are authorised to do it. But understand, at the very beginning of the lockdown, even the deliverymen were quarantined, so people were transported from two thousand kilometres away, from Canton, to ensure that supply [in Shanghai]. They are also being tested daily to make sure they do not spread the virus.
It is no longer possible to order individually, and the shops only accept bulk orders, at least 50 portions at a time. Therefore it took a lot of time for their families to find food sources, and they also had to keep up with the demands of the community: where the community wanted to get food from and what it wanted to get.
“It’s really depressing not to eat what I want, but what I have. I’ve always missed Hungarian food, but now I would be happy to be able to order a pizza,” Attila Balogh, nicknamed Guczó by his peers, said with a smile.
Interestingly, the podcasters noted that there are districts where, while you have to fight for the bread that is a Western fad, there is always a supply of expensive crab, shrimp, shellfish or other seafood, because it is in higher demand.
In general, the teams are well organised, but a lot depends on individual ingenuity. Mihály Giber cited the example of an Italian friend who, at the beginning of the lockdown, was extremely upset because he didn’t have enough wine, but days later he was handing them drinks through a wine-bottle-sized hole in their door.
Some people don’t even get paid
In Shanghai, millions of people switched to work-from-home a month ago. It is a government decision that employers had to give all employees full pay for 30 days even if they could not do their work as factory workers. But this deadline has passed, and from now on, officially only the minimum wage will be paid to those who sit at home because of the closures.
István Lehoczki works for an automotive company that manufactures, develops and sells steering systems, and although he can do some of his work from his home, there are many things that need to be done on-site, and that makes it challenging.
His partner, Evelyn Szakács, a dancer, is in an even more difficult situation. She has an hourly contract as a dance teacher, but as there is no teaching, there is no pay. They are trying to offer online classes, but she has far fewer customers than normal.
The makers of the podcast were unanimous in saying that Shanghai and the people of Shanghai were not at all prepared for such a sudden shift to working from home. It all happened too fast and it was announced that it was only going to be a four-day lockdown. That turned into two weeks and now a month, with no end in sight.
“I’m still coping quite well, it’s just getting really hard psychologically to look at the same walls for over 40 days”, said Attila Balogh.
The Hungarians think that the lockdown has its good sides. They have more free time, they are free from the daily travel, they save a lot. They also say that they can exercise more systematically, read more than before, and learn new recipes and ingredients. But three or four [weeks] of these were enough for them.
Everyone fears quarantine hospitals like wildfire
Under the current rules, if there is no infection in a given unit for seven days, you can go out into the yard, and if no sick people are found for another seven days, you can go out into the district. “But that’s only been like that in fairy tales,” the Hungarians laughed, adding that in practice those on the top decide when the curfew is lifted.
Another interesting question is how people in quarantine can become infected in the first place. According to the Hungarians, there are two possible explanations. Either they catch the Coronavirus from a deliveryman or during testing while standing in the line.
They have not seen any cases where those who become infected are ostracised and the whole community is sentenced to another two weeks of detention. What is more typical, however, is that the community urges that the person be removed as soon as possible, as this is the only way to start the 14-day countdown.
However, beyond all the bad news, there are several factors that give reasons for optimism. The authorities are also starting to soften up, as most of them are tired of the rigour.
Hungarians have already seen residents smoking in the yard together with a guard whose hairnet is the only reminder that he once worked in the fight against the epidemic.
The statistics are getting better, too, with the daily number of new infections down to around 1,500 a day, and if they reach a few hundred cases, the government will run out of reference points for why the whole city is on lockdown.
However, according to Mihály Giber, uncertainty remains with them, and some people have experienced it all as a terrible trauma. “I know a young girl who feels like crying every day,” he said. Attila Balogh says the problem stems from the fact that although everyone trusted the government that handled the pandemic perfectly for a long time, this time the lockdown did not end in four days as originally planned.
“No one believes in anything anymore. It is unusual in China that you cannot trust what the state says. It has never happened before”, he pointed out.
However, he made it clear that even when there is outrage, people do not blame the central government for what is happening, but always the local key person, which has already led to the dismissal of several people in Shanghai.
He noted that it is in the Chinese genes to fear infections and epidemics in particular. They take it much more seriously and have learned from their grandparents and great-grandparents that an epidemic is a terrible thing. According to Mihály Giber, “everyone fears the quarantine hospital like fire, because the conditions are terrible there, but people also fear losing their jobs and the whole fuss.”
This group of friends would like to go out already. At the end of the interview, we asked them where their first journey would take them when the lockdown ends. The answers included visiting restaurants, travelling, photography, cycling, football, walking and Evelyn Szakács, the only woman, mentioned a manicure among the activities she missed.
Someone noted that as soon as the city opens, they would go out for a beer or two together. And immediately came the reply from another quarantined apartment: “more than one or two”.