Just what are they trying to stop?

Just what are they trying to stop?
: I smell a cynical act China’s decision to shut entertainment venues to stop the spread of SARS. Included in that is the closure of Internet cafes. Why Internet cafes and why not trains, restaurants, stores, and other public venues? Perhaps they also want to stop the spread of information?

  • Kevin Miller

    I’m sure they would love to limit the spread of information, but most Chinese Internet cafes are also just about the best places you can imagine for spreading SARS — poor ventilation, many machines crowded into a small space, and kids playing computer games for hours. So, if you’re trying to limit places where strangers will spread the disease, you would certainly include Internet cafes.
    Besides, cell phones and SMS (short message service) seem to play about the same role that the net plays in the U.S. in spreading information far and wide.

  • Jesse

    I just came back from a (truncated due to SARS) year studying in Beijing and think that Jeff is on the right track. Internet cafes are a reasonably easy environment in which to spread a disease like SARS, but the decision to shut them down was, I’m nearly certain, motivated also by the fact that aside from the internet the only sources most Chinese people have for news are the state-controlled TV and newspapers. Up until early April (when I decided to leave) the TV was still spouting CCP rhetoric; there were 12 cases in Beijing; the disease was under control. Meanwhile foreign press websites were carrying news of the mil. hospital doctor who had reported 60 cases in his Beijing hospital alone.
    Emails were sent. People SMS’d each other. The populace, especially the young, smart, and traditionally volatile Beijing populace (recall that just about all of China’s top universities are in Beijing) began to panic. When I was there, before the purging of the Health Minister and the mayor had taken place, the students at Peking University were already panicky enough to consider leaving the city.
    They closed the net cafes largely to keep a lid on what the populace could learn. Most Chinese don’t have home computers, and rely on net cafes for their news. I’d even go so far as to say the closing of theaters and night clubs may have been pushed up so as to make the net cafe shutdown less obviously a political move.

  • Julia Child

    I think it’s interesting to note that had China honestly reported these SARS cases when they alarmingly began to multiply as far back as last November, the entire situation could possibly have been contained. Personally, I will continue to be weary of their “official toll” numbers – having taken into consideration their fondness for having swept it under the carpet for so long.
    Also of note is that absolutely all 21 Toronto cases of SARS deaths can still be attributed back to that one elderly Chinese woman.