Rotary Nuertingen Kirchheim Teck


My good friend Eli Khoury who worked a few years in Beijing is now the president of Rotary Nuertingen Kirchheim Teck Club in Germany. We miss him and his lovely family.
The club:
He invited me to give a talk about Beijing using ZOOM. I finally found a way to do it so that my face is not sun-burnt red – the camera of my iMac desktop sucks. The iPhone is much better, and with some extra lights it looks really so much friendlier.

Topic of the E-Meeting

“Surviving Beijing during the pandemic. What’s next for the economy?”

Time was 13:20 CET / 19:20 Beijing time on 16 September 2020 and the talk with Q&A took some 40 minutes. I gave an overview on how the COVID-19 epidemic started and how Beijing (and China) handled the fight against the virus, with the today result it is the safest place to be for the virus. I explained how life was during the “lockdown” – that was not really a lockdown as in other countries, while somehow draconian. I survived it very well. Now Beijing is slowly back to “normal” but still with some restrictions.

I also talked about the impact on the economy and what we can expect in the near future.
I also explained there is a lot of fake news, such as the story that China “made the virus by purpose”. And that it is clear another virus of the same kind can be expected in the future; to ward it off, China is clamping down on the trade of wild animals and improving the sanitary conditions of the “wet markets” where vegetables, fish, meat and so much more is sold.


The new buzzwords

Call it Digibesity, Mal de Coucou or OCUD, I often wonder if it is not worse than COVID-19.
Like for the dreaded virus we face now, this mobile virus has a few names:

Digibesitas (Dutch) or “Digibesity” for our English readers.
Cellfish: Those who continue to talk on their cell phone, oblivious to the effect on others around them.
Nomophobia: refers to the fear of being without your mobile phone or without a cellular or WIFI signal.
OCUD (Obsessive cell phone use disorder) describes a person who continually talks on their cell phone or checks updates on mobile apps in public, while driving, meeting friends or eating in a restaurant. Or going to a classical concert. Mal de Coucou is a new buzzword, says China Daily: “Describes a phenomenon in which a person has an active social life but very few close friends”.

The plague of the new era

I already published a few posts with some hilarious (not sure this is the right word!) pics and cartoons:

Digibesity books and articles:

Digibesity can harm, and kill you:

Digibesity the new social plague:

Do you suffer from OCUD or Mal de Coucou?

Call me old-fashioned

You can, but I don’t care. However, do note I am also hours on my mobile, plus desktop where I am active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and a few others. I stopped Instagram, not that interesting. Livestreaming for foreigners in China is totally forbidden. Can’t use the app Douyin and always failed to activate TikTok. Well, maybe not missing that much.

But I hate to sit with “friends” at a restaurant when they have more interest in their mobiles (and making stupid selfies), and people walking, biking and even driving glued to their mobile screens. They totally ignore the real world around them and are only alive in their artificial world.
I love to walk around and see what’s around me. And enjoying my food. BTW be aware it is bad for your health to eat AND look at your screens at the same time.

I miss the pre-mobile era

Looking at an old VHS of Madonna public performances (she is one of the greatest performers), one interesting aspect: no mobiles yet. People chatting with each other, not glued to their mobile, not taking pictures. The public during the shows actually is listening to the music and paying attention to the performers.
I miss that time.

When I was young we had no mobiles, only the fixed line at home that we had to share with the whole house. Privacy was often a problem so I learned to whisper in the phone to the annoyance of my parents. We survived very well, managed to meet and date, and have fun.

Love the pics

Here some more funny pics.


And a tell-all video:

More to come!

Gongti strip to disappear

The verdict

I knew this was coming through my contacts: the gongti strip to disappear, along with all bars, discos, restaurants and shops in the Worker’s Stadium area. I called it the “gongti strip” as we have the Las Vegas Strip. At night the street becomes total chaos with cars blocking each other, girls in mini miniskirts, a procession of the most expensive cars. Traffic police permanently on holiday.
It is planned all will disappear by the end of the year, including Legend Beer.

Construction crews already set up their quarters and they have started work.


So many famous locations of the Beijing nightlife:
VICS, MIX, Tubestation, Club Sirteen, Bellagio, Heaven Supermarket, Lantern, Elements, KTVs, name it.
See some here as they are still in place, also a few of the many venues inside the stadium area.

Some historical facts of the area:
Gongti Turns 60: A Look Back at the Stadium’s Moments in History
theBeijinger 4 August 2020

However there is a mistake in the overview. The first concert was not at all in 1999. One of the first I actually attended myself in 1985, the performance by Wham! (George Michael), the first Western band to perform in China as the country began to open up after the Cultural Revolution, an hour-long concert for 15.000 people.

See an overview of the articles: 200803 endofera

Sterile city

It is supposed to be to be a major renovation of the Worker’s Stadium and the surrounding area, and as far as I understand also to build a new subway station. I am afraid it will be a sterile and funless new gongti.

The former “Gongti Yibai”, the formerly biggest indoor bowling area in the world (100 lanes) has been transformed over the years in a huge complex of discos, KTV and more.
With all the government much criticized clampdown on “illegal structures”, leading to massive destruction of shops, restaurants and bars, the government never dared to touch the KTV and other who simply took over the huge underground parking, to build their venues. License? You bet. I guess some got very well rewarded for ignoring this “illegal construction”. I dare anyone to show me the legal go-ahead!

Many nice bars and cafes have been closed in the hutongs and in Sanlitun. It seems some are coming back as new discos, even now they are filled to capacity with a massive dancing crowd. And that during “COVID time”. Social distancing? Hahahaha. Even Club Sirteen on the Gongti Strip is still full blast in the night. Well, for the time being. (click to view the video clip)

200808 sirteen

Sometimes one cannot understand how the Beijing government works.

The quest for a Covid-19 cure

Worldwide efforts

The quest for a Covid-19 cure and a vaccine goes on worldwide: in China, Europe (UK, Switzerland,…), USA and other. Even my University in Ghent, Belgium, is “making progress”. But it seems there is little news about the cure; most talk about a vaccine.
The outlook is difficult to evaluate. Some specialists say a vaccine will not be available before the end of this year. Others are more optimistic.

Don’t blame me! I am not a virus!

The U.S. is complaining their specialists are still waiting for the invitation from China to join the WHO team that is expected to visit China. The reasons are not clear…

Some mention progress

Inovio Pharmaceuticals (based in Pennsylvania and laboratory in San Diego) says it created a coronavirus vaccine three hours after getting access to the virus’ genetic sequence in mid-January, and now scientists are racing to get the vaccine on the market in record time.
The American company is partnering with Beijing Advaccine, a Chinese company, to work on the vaccine. Inovio also received US$9 million to work on the vaccine from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is backed by billionaire Bill Gates.
Inovio took a vaccine for Zika virus from construct design to human testing in the U.S. in less than seven months. They want to beat that record.

Another U.S. company, Maryland-based Novavax, is aiming to make a coronavirus vaccine in as little as three months, although such vaccines can take years to develop. The company made an Ebola vaccine in 90 days.

A team headed by Prof. Peter Hotez at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is cooperating with researchers from Shanghai Fudan University.
A vaccine against coronavirus, developed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Medical School of Shanghai Tongji University and Shanghai-based biotechnology company Stemirna Therapeutics, has already been tested on mice but trials on humans will only commence in April.
The China Association for Vaccines said that as of February 6, 17 Chinese institutions and companies were developing vaccines.
(Source: FCCC Belgium)

All restaurants in Guangzhou suspend dine-In service

In Guangzhou, all districts have suspended dine-in service as of 9 pm on February 12 (with the exception of cafeterias) as reported by Zhongguo Guangzhou Fabu, a local government-run WeChat account. Elsewhere in Guangdong, Xiangzhou district in Zhuhai, Foshan and Zhongshan have also prohibited local dine-in services.
In Shenzhen, most businesses in the Futian CBD are closed. Takeout and delivery staff must have their temperature taken before picking up the food, as reported by Southern Metropolis Daily.
The government has ordered third-party delivery services to implement health management and inspection systems for delivery staff. It is also promoting “contactless distribution” during the outbreak to prevent consumers picking up meals from delivery personnel face to face.


People in China use toothpicks and lighters to avoid pressing lift buttons amid the coronavirus outbreak. Now you know why toothpicks in the elevators…

The Chinese model is questioned

Questions and uncertainties

The Covid-19 impacts many businesses, but there is more. The Chinese model is questioned. Alarm lights are flashing for the US-China phase-one trade deal. Observers look at what they call flaws in the Chinese model.


Beijing battles a “crisis of Chernobyl proportions’’ in coronavirus outbreak. Public fury is growing, with calls for more freedom of speech, but most observers don’t expect any dramatic changes.
We all hope for the best and support the efforts to contain the epidemic, but we also hope the Chinese government will learn some lessons.
Watch my short clip of support (need VPN):

Oui, je reste en Chine!

La Chine vit aujourd’hui un véritable drame collectif déclenché par la propagation du coronavirus. Beaucoup de monde se sont inquiétés de la sécurité des étrangers en Chine. Pour cela, nous les avons donc contactés pour qu’ils partagent avec nous leurs expériences et leur sentiments.La porte-parole du ministère des Affaires étrangères de Chine, Mme Hua Chunying a déclaré le 6 février à la presse, que la Chine continuerait de garantir la sécurité et les soins aux étrangers en Chine ainsi que les soins aux citoyens chinois. Les mesures d’hygiène et de prévention sont traduites en quasiment toutes les langues, les étrangers en Chine peuvent rester au courant de l’évolution de l’épidémie et des règles à respecter. Mais ils ont en colère lorsqu’ils lisent ou regardent certains reportages injustes dans les médias occidentaux. La Chine a pris toute une série de mesures qui donnent maintenant de bons résultats, comme l’a confirmé l’OMS. Tout ce qu’il faut, c’est attendre car les virus obéissent à des cycles. Maintenant, tous les étrangers en Chine font confiance à la Chine. Allez la Chine! Allez Wuhan !

Posted by La Chine au Présent LCAP on Thursday, February 13, 2020

The same clip was also posted on Wechat (with no need for VPN).
Earlier they posted a text version. Some screenshots of the clip.

Uncertainty around the US-China phase-one trade deal

The deal between USA and China was signed when events in Wuhan made key terms doubtful from the start. How could China meet its additional US$200 billion purchase commitments?
And then the coronavirus epidemic made the improbable impossible.
“The coronavirus outbreak could reduce Chinese purchases of US agricultural products this year under the Phase 1 trade deal signed by the two countries”, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said as reported by Reuters.

The Chinese government cannot dictate consumer choices. Out of public health concerns, cinemas in China are closed. So, who will watch American films.
Chinese tourists must choose whether they travel to the U.S. or Europe. Major US airlines have stopped flying to mainland China and the US has basically barred the entry of non-American citizens. Reduced travel means also less urgency to buy Boeing jets. Tourism revenue in USA to plummet, even more than in Europe.
Some of the intended contracts need communication and meetings. Difficult now that people can’t travel anymore.
How to implement the inflated purchase promises when there is less Chinese demand and the volumes were too large to start with.

Flaws in the Chinese model

As discussed in the SCMP, the epidemic exposes fundamental flaws in China’s economic model. I have to agree with many of their views, as part of their comments.
Beijing is reluctant to fix it, as it does not want to tackle the excessive concentration of power, with information and resources now more and more in the hands of a powerful state, read, of the Party.

Beijing will continue to strengthen centralized control, and that’s is a greater threat for China’s future than the virus itself.
China can build a hospital in ten days. An overly centralized political system makes it possible for the government to place emphasis on delivering quick and impressive results but also on doing the wrong things, leading to further disaster.

The central government is increasingly reliant on state-owned enterprises and state money to maintain social stability and to deliver economic results, all while the private economy is gradually marginalized.

Many private business owners in China have noticed a change that they are not welcomed or loved in the new system.
China has suffered important capital outflows as many wealthy Chinese people, and even the urban middle class, have scrambled to move money out of the country. Private investment at home has suffered. Some of the people I know only want one thing: get their money out.

In such an increasingly centralized system, decision-making power is concentrated at the top, and information is filtered through the different levels of governments. If the top decision makers prefer stability more than anything else, the system will just automatically suppress and filter out information that can paint a different and unwelcome picture. That is the direct cause of the coronavirus outbreak, which was seriously under-reported or even covered up before January 20, see further.

Economists cited 2003 SARS as an example of how China’s economic growth can recover quickly from the coronavirus outbreak. They ignore the fact that the Chinese economy has completely changed since SARS. That time, China was integrating into the world economy and was dismantling at least in part its state sector economy.

Wuhan messed it up

source BBC:

On 30 December, Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist working in Wuhan’s Central Hospital, posted his concerns in a private medical chat group, advising colleagues to take measures to protect themselves.
A few days later, he was summoned by the police and made to sign a confession, denouncing the messages he’d posted as “illegal behavior”.
The authorities, though, were well aware of the outbreak of illness.
The day after Dr. Li posted his message, China notified the WHO, and the day after that, the suspected source – the market – was closed down.
Doctors were already setting up quarantine rooms and anticipating extra admissions when Wuhan held its important annual political gathering, the city’s People’s Congress. In their speeches, Party leaders made no mention of the virus.
The National Health Commission continued to report that the number of infections was limited and that there was no clear evidence that the disease could spread between humans.
On 18 January the Wuhan authorities allowed a massive community banquet to take place, involving more than 40,000 families. The aim was to set a record for the most dishes served at an event.
Two days later, China finally confirmed that human-to-human transmission was indeed taking place.

Caixin reported that Beijing had its first COVID-19 patient on January 12, Guangdong’s first was January 4, Shanghai’s was January 15.
Just yesterday the government changed the way counting cases of infection and deaths, to improve the former non-transparent way of counting (as mentioned in my previous post). A step forward in transparency. Hubei province reported a spike in new confirmed cases and deaths after change in diagnostic criteria. Now doctors have broader discretion to determine which patients are infected.