Gillian Reinhard ’20
Xi Wang ’21 is from Nanjing (sometimes called Nanking) China, located about one hour by train from Shanghai and about three hours by train from Wuhan, the center of the COVID-19 epidemic. He is an urban studies and mathematics double major and is passionate about international relations and cultures. He spent the fall 2019 semester in Copenhagen and was planning to return to Trinity in the spring. Because of the outbreak, Xi was forced to stay in Nanjing, where he has taken one remote course offered by Trinity and two remote classes offered by Nanjing University. The Tripod spoke to Xi about his experience in China during the height of COVID-19 and how he perceives the current situation in the United States.
Xi recalled his experience living in China during the outbreak, emphasizing that his province, Jiangsu Province, was one of the least affected areas of the country. Xi traced his knowledge of COVID-19 to early January, when the outbreak seemed mostly contained to the Wuhan region. At the time, he explained, his emotions were limited to frustration regarding his inability to return to Trinity for the spring semester and concern for his friends and family in Hubei Province, the area of China hardest hit by the virus. Xi had been scheduled for surgery and regular check-ups in January, and his frequent trips to a Nanjing hospital allowed him to better understand the outbreak in his own city. “I was in the hospital almost every day following the surgery,” Xi explained, “and I was regularly tested for my body temperature before being allowed inside. That’s when I began to realize how serious [COVID-19] was.”
After that time, shops and businesses in Nanjing began to shut down, and travel became extremely limited. “I began to have trouble getting into my own residential community,” Xi said. In Nanjing, citizens were given ID passes to enter their gated communities. After, cases began to increase in Jiangsu Province. “When cases came close to my residential community, we began to panic,” he stated. Xi pointed toward the role of the Chinese media, on a local and national level, inciting much of the panic that had gripped China. He mentioned that press conferences from the Chinese CDC were frequently shown. This was a significant turn in coverage from earlier in the outbreak, Xi explained, as the initial conception in January, sometimes perpetuated by the Chinese media, was that attitudes toward COVID-19 were an overreaction.
Xi spoke of a period of about a month of intense quarantining throughout the city of Nanjing, a period that the city is now recovering from. As Xi explained, people in Nanjing were required to have a pass before leaving their house. “I couldn’t even go visit my grandparents,” he said. For about a month, he recalled, Xi left his house only three times, and spent two weeks entirely quarantined in his house.
“At this point, it’s getting a lot better,” Xi said. “I’ve started to feel much more calm and comfortable with this situation. I also feel much better about my remote-learning classes. At this point, the media is emphasizing the importance of quarantine and social distance. It’s a really important way to stop the virus.” Xi’s parents, who worked remotely in January, returned to work by mid-February. He also mentioned that grocery stores have re-opened.
Now, Xi has observed COVID-19 get worse in other countries around the world, such as Italy, Spain, and the United States. “I remember the first few headlines of Western media commented on the Chinese government’s seemingly ‘inhumane’ methods of containing the virus but I think this was the only way to stop the spread,” he said. “I have seen that some Italian and Danish media has portrayed China as an uncivilized country with a lack of healthcare support. When I was in Denmark, Chinese people were made fun of for eating strange things, but this isn’t true of all of China.” Xi also spoke of the positive global cooperation COVID-19 has sparked. “Korea and Japan have sent supplies to China, and China has sent supplies to them. There has been lots of cooperation and support between our countries,” he explained.
“I don’t think people in the United States and other Western countries are taking it seriously enough. Personally, I think social distancing needs to be a top priority—no parties, no big gatherings of people on the street, that sort of thing,” Xi said, while also mentioning the important responsibility of both Chinese and Western media to report the truth and encourage social distancing.
“The virus is going to get worse in the world,” he said, “Overtime, I have felt less impacted by the virus. I think the United States is beginning to take social distancing more seriously, which is a good thing. I’m looking forward to going back to Trinity to finish my degree.”