(p. A1) Four days into a coronavirus lockdown in her Shanghai neighborhood, Ding Tingting began to worry about the old man who lived alone in the apartment below her. She knocked on his door and found that his food supply was dwindling and that he didn’t know how to go online to buy more.
Ms. Ding helped him buy food, but also got to thinking about the many older people who lived alone in her neighborhood. Using the Chinese messaging app WeChat, she and her friends created groups to connect people in need with nearby volunteers who could get them food and medicine.
When a woman’s father-in-law fainted, the network of volunteers found a neighbor with a blood pressure monitor and made sure it was delivered quickly.
“Life cannot be suspended because of the lockdown,” said Ms. Ding, a 25-year-old art curator.
In its relentless effort to stamp out the virus, China has relied on hundreds of thousands of low-level party officials in neighborhood committees to arrange mass testing and coordinate transport to hospitals and isolation facilities. The officials have doled out special passes for the sick to seek medicine and other necessities during lockdown.
In Beijing on Monday [April 25, 2022], the government ordered about three-quarters of the city’s 22 million (p. A6) residents to undergo three mandatory rounds of testing in five days in an effort to get ahead of a new outbreak.
But the recent surge in Shanghai has overwhelmed the city’s 50,000 neighborhood officials, leaving residents struggling to obtain food, medical attention and even pet care. Angry and frustrated, some have taken matters into their own hands, volunteering to help those in need when China’s Communist Party has been unable or unwilling, testing the party’s legitimacy in a time of crisis.
“A claim of the Chinese Communist Party is that only the Communist Party can deliver basic order and livelihood to every person in China,” said Victor Shih, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. For Shanghai residents now trying to get food and other fundamentals, “their confidence in these claims has probably been weakened,” he said.
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(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 26, 2022, and has the title “‘I Just Want to Help’: Amid Chaos, Shanghai Residents Band Together.”)