mandag 20. mars 2023

After 3 Years of Lockdowns, a Chinese Border City Struggles to Rebuild

Inside Duobao Zhicheng, one of the largest jade markets in Ruili, the noise is deafening. Dozens of traders hold up green jade jewelry and carvings in front of their smartphone screens — which they’re using to livestream to customers all over China — and yell their prices at the top of their voices. As China moves on from three years of strict pandemic controls, life is gradually returning to normal in Ruili — a remote city sitting on China’s southwestern border with Myanmar. But the recovery is likely to be slower here than in other parts of the country.

Before the pandemic, Ruili’s prosperity was built on its status as the main gateway between China and Myanmar. Billions of dollars of fei cui — a variety of green jade that is highly prized in China — flowed from Myanmar’s mines into the Chinese market each year, with much of it channeled through Ruili.

After COVID hit, however, the city’s frontier location became a liability. With China wary of infections spreading across the border, Ruili faced a string of weekslong lockdowns. From early 2021, the border was sealed entirely, and surrounding neighborhoods were evacuated. Undocumented migrants from Myanmar were rounded up and forced to return home.