It’s April and what can we talk about but the Coronavirus? For this episode of the YCW Podcast, host Sam Colombie invited three fellow Young China Watchers on the show, to talk about their experiences living in China during this crisis: Dev Lewis, Yenching Scholar currently in Shanghai; Julia Chen, Public Policy Researcher at a tech company in Beijing; and Thena Lee, Political Economy Consultant also in Beijing. 

The focus of their discussion is on China’s slow but certain recovery from the worst peaks of the infection curve, and how China’s current situation might inform other countries about what’s to come.

Julia and Sam kick off the episode by sharing their experiences under quarantine, in Beijing and Hong Kong respectively. Thena and Julia then talk about how life is slowly returning to the streets and parks of Beijing, while certain measures are still in place. Dev compares their experiences with his own in Shanghai, where the usual hustle and bustle has almost returned, although many people are still hesitant to do more than just essential activities. Dev and Thena discuss the xenophobia that always seems to flare up in times of crisis.

Dev Lewis
Thena Lee
Julia Chen
Julia Chen

They continue the episode talking about the technology and human effort involved in monitoring the health and whereabouts of so many citizens. Dev mentions the 健康码, Health Code App, which “has now become your de facto passport. If you don’t have that you won’t be able to enter a residential complex, you won’t be able to go to the gym, you won’t be able to ride the subway.”

The episode concludes with a discussion about the potential application of this technology in other countries and the trade-off between privacy and freedom of movement that many countries may have to face in the wake of this health crisis.

“I can’t see a scenario where the world gets back to work without these fairly intrusive health app solutions. Until at least there’s a vaccine.” — Dev Lewis

To stay informed and maintain some sanity under lockdown, the panel gave the following recommendations:

Julia Chen recommends to follow Tyler Cowen, Economist at George Mason University, on his podcast and blog: ‘Marginal Revolution’ and to subscribe to Dev Lewis’s newsletter ‘China India Networked’ to see how the crisis will impact the relations between these two Asian giants.

Thena Lee recommends two podcast episodes that tell the personal side of this story: The first is Rough Translation’s ‘WeChats From The Future’, about a Chinese-American and Italian-American couple and how they reacted when the faraway virus reached their homes and families. The second is the March 29 episode of The New York Times’ The Daily, telling the story of the husband of a NYT journalist who fell ill with the virus and how the suffering of these victims shouldn’t be understated.

Dev Lewis recommends two newsletters: ‘Corona Daily’ will curate the most insightful reports and figures for you to see through the noise. ‘The Syllabus’ will give you in-depth analysis on the situation from different angles. Dev also recommends to work out from home with the Keep App and to take up Chinese cooking with the Youtube channel ‘Chinese Cooking Demystified’.

The YCW Podcast is a monthly podcast series by Young China Watchers. We’re a global community of young professionals, providing a platform to discuss the most pressing issues emerging from China today. We organize events with China experts in our 10 chapters across Asia, Europe and the U.S., fostering the next generation of China thought leaders.

Download and follow our podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play Music and your usual platforms for podcasting.

Produced by Sam Colombie, with support from Johanna Costigan. Music: ‘We Build With Rubber Bands’, ‘Dirty Wallpaper’ by Blue Dot Sessions.

For any suggestions, recommendations or other notes, please email us at



YCW Podcast – The New Normal: a COVID-19 Panel Discussion
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