• mjgfurnell

China’s New Normal

It was the first time for many of the White foreigners living in China, that the colour of their skin was not seen as a positive. The first time for them to experience a small amount of prejudice because of their race. And unsurprisingly, they didn’t like it.


What is China’s New Normal? It’s now been almost a month since any new Covid19 cases in Chengdu. Life is slowly returning back to some remanence of normal, but a lot has definitely changed and has the potential to continue to change for the better.


The government introduced a Health App to track where people have been and who they have come into contact with. The app shows a green QR code for those who have not travelled outside of the city and have not been in contact with anyone showing virus symptoms. The App is needed to enter shopping malls and supermarkets, take taxis, even to enter your own residential community. Due to its pretty clear invasion of privacy the App is voluntary for foreigners to sign up to; but a choice between not being able to shop, travel and having difficulty entering your own apartment, or downloading the App isn’t much of a choice at all.



When the App was first introduced it required a Chinese ID card to set up an account, which the majority of foreigners don’t have. This led to a lot of foreigners feeling a little ostracized and isolated, with limitations being put on where they were able to go and what they were able to do. It was around this time that China was getting control of the virus, drastically reducing its spread, however the virus was just starting to break out in Europe and the US. In an interesting turn of events, it was time for China to close its borders on the rest of the world.


After the borders closed, it was the first time that many White foreigners living in China didn’t feel completely welcome. You could hear groups of White Europeans and Americans sharing stories of their outrage,

“I was in the elevator and an old Chinese lady saw me and decided to wait for the next one!”
“I sat down on the train and the man next to me stood up and left!”
“I went for a hike in the mountains and wanted to have a cup of tea in this old tea house but the owner wouldn’t serve us because we were foreign!”
“I can’t believe how racist people are being, the virus was started here in the first place!”

It was the first time for many of the White foreigners living in China, that the colour of their skin was not seen as a positive. The first time for them to experience a small amount of prejudice because of their race. And unsurprisingly, they didn’t like it.


Prejudice in any form is never acceptable but it was somewhat humorous to see a large proportion of the White foreigners suddenly becoming aware of racism in China. This new revelation that people would treat you negatively because of the colour of your skin came at the same time Nigerians living in Guangzhou, China were being kicked out of their apartments and made to sleep on the streets because of the colour of their skin.


Unsurprisingly, these stories of racism and harm were rarely overheard being discussed. Everyone was much more concerned about the man who turned his back on Becky while she was in line to buy her groceries, than the actual structural and overt racism that many African and Black foreigners experience in China on a daily basis.


These days the Heath App is being used less and less, and the two weeks of fear and animosity held towards White foreigners has all but vanished. Temperature checks are still being conducted at train stations and shopping centres but you are only given special attention if your body scan comes up red rather than green. And like that, the problem is solved. White people no longer experience prejudice because of the colour of their skin, so we don’t need to talk about racism in China anymore...



I hope this is not the case. I hope that the animosity and prejudice that White foreigners felt during those two weeks in China is enough to ignite something in them. Whether it be empathy for People of Colour who live in China, or it be a deeper level of understanding of the racism and prejudice that exists in their own countries, but most of all, I hope it can ignite a passion for social justice and the need to stand up for those who are looked down upon because of their social identities.


Our New Normal should be one where we are more accepting and understanding, one where we reflect more on how our actions impact others, one where we fight for justice and equality.




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