China's Zero-Covid Policy: Six Keywords to Understand the Aftermath

Photo for China
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Live via Zoom

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Featuring: Eileen Chow (Duke University); Ting Guo (Chinese University of Hong Kong); Neysun Mahboubi (University of Pennsylvania); Victor Shih (UC, San Diego); Gina Tam (Trinity University); Jeffrey Wasserstrom (UC Irvine); and moderated by Michael Berry (UCLA) 

From early 2020 through 2022, China maintained extraordinarily strict policies related to COVID-19; these included city-wide lockdowns, mandatory heath QR codes, regular testing for all citizens in urban centers, strict quarantining of COVID-positive patients, and extensive travel regulations, including testing and isolating. Then on December 7, 2022, the government announced the suspension of many of these policies, including compulsory PCR tests and mandatory detention of COVID-positive patients. Five days later, health code apps were taken offline, effectively ending China’s Zero-Covid policy. Since then, China has seen a massive wave of COVID-19 cases, which have strained the country’s health care system, led to a shortage of medication, and a surge in deaths due to illness.

This panel brings together specialists from the fields of legal studies, cultural studies, gender studies, political science, history, and literature to examine the dramatic changes that have swept China since Zero-Covid ended. Each speaker will focus briefly on a different “keyword” or “concept” central to our understanding of China’s current political, cultural, economic, and medical landscape, taking up in turn “borders,” “gender,” “long tails,” “globalization,” “policy processes,” and “legal advocacy.” Much of the session will be devoted to exchanges between panelists and Q&A.

About the speakers:
Eileen Cheng-yin Chow is Associate Professor of the Practice in Chinese and Japanese Cultural Studies at Duke University, and one of the founding directors of Story Lab at Duke. She is currently the Director of Graduate Studies for Duke Asian Pacific Studies Institute's East Asian Studies graduate program, and a founding/core faculty member of Duke Asian American and Diaspora Studies. Eileen is also Director of the Cheng Shewo Institute of Chinese Journalism at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan 世新大學舍我紀念館與新聞研究中心, and she co-directs the Biographical Literature Press and its longstanding Chinese-language history journal, Biographical Literature 傳記文學. Eileen serves on the executive board of the LA Review of Books, and as co-editor of the Duke University Press book series, Sinotheory. Eileen received her A.B. in Literature from Harvard and her Ph.D in Comparative Literature at Stanford.

Ting Guo is Assistant Professor of Cultural and Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, focusing on religion, politics, and gender in transnational Asia. She is writing her first book, Politics of Love: Religion, Secularism, and Love as a Political Discourse in Modern China. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in journals including Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, and Critical Research on Religion. She co-hosts a Mandarin podcast called "in-betweenness" (@shichapodcast).

Neysun A. Mahboubi is a Research Scholar of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Lecturer in Law at Penn Law School. He hosts the CSCC Podcast, and is one of the project leaders for the Penn Project on the Future of U.S.-China Relations. He also hosts the Law & Governance series, co-sponsored by the Penn Program on Regulation. His primary academic interests are in the areas of administrative law, comparative law, and Chinese law, and his current writing focuses on the development of modern Chinese administrative law. He has chaired the international committee of the ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice, advised both the Asia Foundation and the Administrative Conference of the United States on Chinese administrative procedure reform, and moderates the Comparative Administrative Law Listserv hosted by Yale Law School. Occasionally, he comments on Chinese law and policy developments for CGTN America and other media outlets. He has taught at Princeton University's School of Public & International Affairs, the University of Connecticut School of Law, and Yale Law School. Previously, he served as a trial attorney in the Civil Division (Federal Programs Branch) of the U.S. Department of Justice, and as a law clerk to Judge Douglas P. Woodlock of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School and an A.B. (Politics & East Asian Studies) from Princeton University.

Victor Shih holds the Ho Miu Lam Chair in China and Pacific Relations at the School of Global Policy and Strategy. He is an expert on the politics of China’s fiscal and financial policies, as well as the elite politics of China. He was the first analyst to identify the risk of massive local government debt, and is the author of two books published by the Cambridge University Press, entitled "Factions and Finance in China: Elite Conflict and Inflation" and "Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao’s Stratagem to the Rise of Xi." He is also editor of "Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability: Duration, Institutions and Financial Conditions," published by the University of Michigan Press. An active member of the China Data Lab, he is also constructing a large database on biographical information of elites in China, as well as the activities of the elite.
Previously a principal in The Carlyle Group’s global market strategy group, Shih is a PI or co-PI on several research projects on China funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Henry Luce Foundation and Smith Richardson Foundation. He currently leads a project at 21CCC on the political economy of digital currency in China and the Asia Pacific region.

Gina Tam is an associate professor of history and co-chair of Women and Gender Studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas; she is also a Public Intellectual Fellow at the National Committee on US-China Relations, and the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Asian studies. She completed her Ph.D. in modern Chinese history at Stanford University in 2016, and received her B.A. in History and Asian Studies from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008. She is a fourth-generation Italian-American originally from Lakewood, Colorado.
Her interest, at its core, is how the identities we ascribe to ourselves or are ascribed to us-- including gender, national identity, race, ethnicity, and class-- translate into access or the removal of access to cultural, political, and material power. Her research has examined these themes in the history of modern China. Her first book, Dialect and Nationalism, winner of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Best Book Prize, explores the relationship between language and national identity from the late Qing through the height of the Maoist period. Now, she is working on a new project that explores the relationship between gender and post-colonialism in the history of protests in post-war Hong Kong. She speaks Mandarin, reads standard written Chinese, and speaks conversational Cantonese and Japanese.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, where he also holds courtesy appointments in Law, Literary Journalism and Political Science. He is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of a dozen books, including Students Protests in Twentieth-Century China (1991), Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities (2002), China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010, 2013, 2016 editions), and Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (2020). He writes regularly for both general interest and academic periodicals and is a cofounder of UCI's Forum for the Academy and the Public. He will spend the spring of 2023 as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Moderated by:

Michael Berry is an author and translator who is Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies and Director of the Center for Chinese Studies at UCLA. He has written and edited ten books on Chinese literature and cinema, including Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (2006), A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (2008), Jia Zhangke on Jia Zhangke (2022) The Musha Incident: A Reader on the Indigenous Uprising in Colonial Taiwan (2022) and Translation, Disinformation and Wuhan Diary: Anatomy of a Trans Pacific Disinformation Campaign (2022). He has served as a film consultant and a juror for numerous film festivals, including the Golden Horse (Taiwan) and the Fresh Wave (Hong Kong). A two-time National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellow, Berry's book-length translations include The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai (2008) by Wang Anyi, shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, To Live (2004) by Yu Hua, a selection in the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read library, and Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City (2020) by Fang Fang. His translation of the dystopian science fiction novel Hospital by Han Song is forthcoming from Amazon Crossing.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies