When there are people, but no policies: International interaction during COVID-19 政策不足、人口有余:新型冠状病毒时代的国际互动

By Hope Parker

柯梦希

NANJING, China — When political scientists recommend intergovernmental cooperation, rather than competition, they frequently turn to low-level relationship building. International travel and educational exchanges are touted as means of developing mutual understanding, to encourage governments to cooperate. It seems people have listened. In early April of 2020, the New York Times reported that nearly 40,000 Americans had traveled from China to the U.S. since January. Although those travelers may have done their part by learning about China, the Chinese and American governments are behind the times. China is increasingly connected to the rest of the world, but the government was not prepared for how those connections would translate into a viral spread. In a similar vein, the U.S. government was not prepared for how more individual-level relationships with China could affect its domestic populace.

中国南京 — 当政治学家们建议国际政府进行合作而非竞争时,他们经常推出低级关系发展。国际旅游与留学项目被当成增进相互理解的办法,在长期会有助于政府间合作。似乎人们都听懂了。2020年4月初,据《纽约时报》报道,自1月份以来,近四万美国人从中国回到美国。虽然那些旅游者可能现在更深地了解中国,但中国与美国政府已经落伍了。中国跟全世界的联系越来越强,但是其政府并没有对这些联系将会如何促成一个病毒的传播而做好准备。同样,美国政府也没有准备好如何应对与中国更个人层面的关系将对国内人口产生的影响。

SARS-COV-2 first appeared in Wuhan, on December 8th, 2019 and cases continued to grow in number over the course of the month. Municipal authorities’ first move came on December 30th, when they detained and silenced a doctor for “spreading rumors” about the new pneumonia cases. The following day, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China alerted the World Health Organization to a “cluster of pneumonia cases” in Wuhan. However, as the number of cases grew, instead of working with the international tools available, the Chinese government turned inwards. Despite offers in January from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to send teams to Wuhan to observe and help with the crisis, China delayed international officials’ access to the epicenter of the outbreak. Not only would access benefit healthcare workers and sick patients in Wuhan, it could provide more understanding of the virus and lay the foundation for better global management as the virus spread globally.

新型冠状病毒于2019年12月8日在武汉市首次出现,病例在一个月内持续增长。市政当局的第一次行动是在12月30日以散布新肺炎的谣言为名拘禁并禁言一位医生。第二天,中国武汉市卫生委员会通知世界卫生组织关注武汉市的“肺炎病例群”。然而,随着病例的增长,政府没有使用现有的国际工具,反而转向国家内部。虽然疾病预防控制中心和世卫组织在2020年一月表示愿意派遣卫生小组进武汉以观察与帮助解决危机,中国政府推迟了国际官员接触疫情震中的时间。国际官员的访问不仅有助于武汉的医护人员与病人,还会让这些国际组织对该病毒有更深的理解,随着病毒的地理传播,为国际新冠病毒管理奠定基础。

Flags marking China’s increasing international ties in the China (Jiangsu) Pilot Free Trade Zone Suzhou Area on January 31st, early in China’s lockdown.
1月31日,在中国检疫初,中国(江苏)自由贸易试验区苏州片区,国际旗帜代表中国日益深化的国际关系。
Photo Credit: Hope Parker
图片来源:柯梦希

The Chinese government may have locked Wuhan down on January 23rd, but by that time, many locals had already embarked on travels outside the city. This year Chinese New Year celebrations began on January 24th, meaning Chunyun (春运), or the Spring Festival Travel rush, often referred to as the largest human migration in the world, had already begun. The virus was already set to travel outside of Wuhan; from other cities, it could easily travel internationally. Questions about China’s experience with the virus continue to emerge as other countries’ death tolls far surpass what China reported.

中国政府可能在1月23日就封锁了武汉,但是到那时,很多当地人已经离开到其他城市旅游。这一年,春节庆祝活动从1月24日开始,这意味着春运(常被称为世界上最大的人类迁徙)也已经开始了。病毒已经准备去武汉外,而通过其他城市,病毒又很容易去国外。随着其他国家死亡人数逐渐超过中国报道的数据时,有关新型冠病毒的中国经验问题不断出现。

China’s choice to contain information about the virus is hardly new. Such a decision is just one of a series of policies meant to contain information for the sake of political stability. Negative information can damage the Chinese Communist Party’s hold on power and lower levels of government know that. It was not just that the Chinese Central Government chose not to share information, Wuhan’s municipal government also restricted the flow of information because it could hurt them in the eyes of the Central Government. This choice of keeping information from others in order to maintain stability displays how the country is unprepared to interact with the rest of the world. COVID-19 has shown that in the global age, it does not matter if knowledge is restricted, events impact people in other countries and they will learn the relevant information eventually. Political stability goals may be domestically oriented, but in this case they were carried out at the expense of global public health and economies. If China wanted to show international leadership in a crisis, it would have allowed international experts into Wuhan for the sake of protecting their own communities and the international community.

中国选择控制病毒信息并不是什么新鲜的事:这只是一系列政策中的一个决定,旨在控制信息以保持政治稳定。负面信息会损害中国共产党的正当性,下级政府也对此十分洞悉。不只是中国中央政府选择不共享信息,武汉市政府也限制了信息的流动,因为负面信息会在中央政府眼中损害他们。这一倾向于通过控制信息传播以保持政治稳定的选择表现出中国尚未准备好跟其他国家进行互动。新冠肺炎表示在全球时代,不管信息是否受到控制,事件终究会影响到其他国家的人,因此他们最终仍会了解相关信息。政治稳定目标可能是面向国内的,但在这种情况下,该目标是以牺牲了全球健康和经济来实现的。如果中国政府想展示危机中的国际领导力,他们应该允许国际专家进入武汉以保护这个城市与国际社区。

From the American side, there is also room for improvement. The U.S. government’s early response to the spread of the novel coronavirus was to keep foreign nationals who had been in China in the previous 14 days out of America. This policy overlooks all of the people travelling back to the United States who are American citizens or permanent residents. Just looking at American study-abroad students, the number studying in China has increased fivefold between the 1998-1999 and 2017-2018 academic years. American policies were ineffective as they failed to address those who had traveled to COVID-19 hotspots and could be vectors of the disease within the U.S. population. 

从美国角度来看,也有改进空间。新冠肺炎危机初期,美国联邦政府的应对举措是将过去14天内在中国的外国人禁止入境。这一政策忽视了从中国回美国的美国公民或永久居民。仅看美国留学生,2017-2018学年在中国学习的美国人相比1998-1999学年增加了五倍。美国政府的政策是无效的,因为它们没有针对那些去过新冠肺炎热点地区的人,而这些人可能是美国人口中的疾病传播媒介。

Although numbers have dropped since the peak in 2012, five times more students attended institutions in China in 2017 than in 1998. 
虽然自2012年以来,留学生的数量下降了,2017年前往中国的美国留学生人口仍是1998年的5倍。
Data courtesy of Institute of International Education
数据来自于国际教育学院

On January 28th, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 3 travel warning for China, advising citizens to reconsider traveling to China, and on January 31st the warning increased to a Level 4, instructing citizens not to travel to China at all. Many Americans in China quickly made arrangements to travel home during the following days. After the quick progression in warnings from the State Department, they were surprised by a lack of precautions in U.S. airports. Although the Department of Homeland Security announced travelers were being screened upon arrival in the U.S., travelers themselves have reported lax measures. When I arrived at the San Francisco International Airport — one of the airports that was supposed to have early screening tools — from Shanghai, China on February 1st, virus screening consisted of a temperature monitor that multiple people could walk through at once and it had little oversight.

2020年1月28日,美国国务院发布了针对中国的三级旅游警告,建议美国公民重新考虑去中国旅行,而在1月31日,该警告提高到四级,指示美国公民不要去中国旅行。许多住在中国的美国人在之后的几天内纷纷计划回国。在国务院警告的快速进展之后,他们对美国机场防范措施的匮乏感到惊讶。虽然国土安全部宣布旅行者到美国的时候会进行体验,但旅行者们自己报告说检查措施松懈。我在2月1日从上海飞到旧金山国际机场 — 一家本应有早期检查工具的机场 — 病毒检查却只包括一个温度检测器,多人可以同时通过,几乎没有监督。

In theory, strict screening measures were supposed to have been implemented on February 2nd, but travelers continued to report limited screening procedures. Some, but not all, returning travelers were advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. These lax restrictions were not limited to travelers returning from China. As the virus spread and formed new hotspots, travelers from Europe also reported little screening upon their return home. The U.S. is not just ill-prepared for increased interactions with China, citizens’ increased travel around the world requires more attention. 

在理论上,2月2日起机场将实施更严格的检查,但仍有旅行者报告检查措施的有限。部分而非全部的旅客接受在家14天隔离的建议。这些宽松的限制不仅限于从中国回来的旅客;随着病毒的传播与新热点的发展,从欧洲回来的旅客在美国飞机场也经过了很少检查。美国不仅没有对于中国的互动做好准备;美国公民不断增加的环游世界的旅行也需要更多的注意力。

From trade to global governance, much of the China studies world is focused on China’s current moment of transition. Public health is yet another angle of how China interacts with the rest of the world. Today the country is clearly a more internationally interconnected nation, meaning its behavior has a greater impact on other countries. Experts propose individual-level contacts as a method to improve foreign relations. Students and travelers have responded and despite already high study-abroad rates, the number of Chinese study-abroad students in America has continued to rise, as have tourists — though how these numbers change during- and post-pandemic remains to be seen. Likewise, Americans are traveling and studying in China at much higher rates than in the two decades prior.

国际贸易全球治理,中国研究的很大部分都专注于中国当下的转型时期。公共卫生是中国与世界互动的另一个角度:显而易见,中国是一个与世界联系更紧密的国家,也就意味着中国的行为对其他国家会产生更大的影响。专家提出个体层面联系来促进对外关系。学生与旅客对此作出反应:除了已经很高的海外留学率,在美国的中国留学人口持续升高,旅客也是一样 — 不过大流行病时期与大流行病之后,这些数据的变化不清楚。相似的,在中国旅游与留学的美国人比两十年前更多。

But governance policies have not kept pace. On China’s side, officials need to share information internationally more openly and expeditiously. The information will emerge eventually, but by sharing knowledge efficiently they can reduce potential harm. In the U.S., officials should recognize that all of the scholarship programs the government has expanded to encourage students to go overseas have worked, but the government needs to be prepared for when those students return. The U.S. needs to be ready for what returning study-abroad students bring back to American society, whether it is in the form of education and increased cultural understanding or harmful pathogens.

但是,政策还没有跟上。对中国而言,官员必须跟国际社会更快地分享信息。信息终将被呈现,但是通过有效地知识分享,可以减少潜在的危害。在美国,官员应该承认政府为鼓励学生出国而设立的所有奖学金项目都发挥了作用,但是政府必须为这些学生的归来做好准备。美国需要为归国留学生给美国社会带来的一切做好准备,无论是教育、文化理解的提高还是有害的病原体。

Hope Parker is reporting from Penngrove, California.

柯梦希在加州Penngrove市报道。

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