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Asia CommentTaipan

Tips for surviving Shanghai’s lockdown

Shanghai skyline and cityscape at sunset

It’s a tale of heroics, some bribery and plenty of alcohol

Many of you will have read about the recent travails of the 26m people in Shanghai who have been placed in lockdown for two weeks as part of China’s zero-Covid strategy.

Well, this week I’ve heard many stories about how my friends there are coping — some surprising, some ingenious, and others downright cheeky.

One story came from a buy-side expat locked up in his apartment building for days on end.

For food, the chap has to chip in for bulk orders shared between his 100-plus neighbours. But this doesn’t always work well. Some days the food doesn’t get delivered, while on other days an order for fruit and vegetables brings just vegetables.

The silver lining? His wife and he are lucky enough to be able to open their apartment door — some of their mates across the city have had theirs padlocked shut.

My friend and his wife still can’t leave their building officially, so they are finding ways to skirt the rules. His tactic is to rely on good ol’ ‘guanxi’ — a Chinese term that describes mutually beneficial relationships, often essential for doing business on the Mainland.

His trick? Take a couple of expensive bottles of China’s favourite firewater baijiu, pop them into an innocent-looking box and cover it up with some spare vegetables.

Voila! A kind-hearted gift to the guards, who then conveniently look the other way while he spends 20 minutes walking his dog outside.

Now, he only tries this out at nights to avoid getting on the wrong side of the authorities. The importance of treading carefully was underlined just a few days later, when a drone suddenly flew outside his building, blaring government slogans and reminding people to stay indoors.

Another friend has had a very different experience. Despite living in a prime expensive location in Shanghai, he and his neighbours were still facing food shortages during the lockdown.

However, his neighbour, a rich entrepreneur, came to the rescue. His solution was to order a large truckload of food for the entire building, getting it to come down from the Shandong province all the way to Shanghai — a roughly nine-hour drive.

My friend found a unique way to thank him. Apparently, a delivery man who goes simply by the name 'Booze Guy' is putting his excess stock of alcohol to good use, supplying it to the thirsty lot in Shanghai. As a result, the entrepreneur received a fine bottle of baiju, courtesy of my friend and Booze Guy.

All this has only reaffirmed my faith in the idea that alcohol can only bring people closer, albeit in a socially distanced way for now. Stay safe, Shanghai!

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