Lockdown 'love story' sparks fling with China and Western media
The hilarious story of a young woman who has ended up locked down under strict quarantine with a man she only just met for a dinner date in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, has sparked a rare, positive fling between Western media and China.
Mainstream Western media stories on China are usually always negative, painting this country as a draconian, backward, dirty place and nothing more.
Even positive news from China is inevitably twisted, like the fact that only two people died due to COVID-19 here last year. Instead of celebrating the protection of human lives, BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, CNN and most other news outlets continue to paint China's strict measures as "authoritarian" and constantly try to pressure Beijing to give up its zero-COVID stance.
But that's all been put on the back-burner recently with the story of Ms Wang, a young woman in her early 30s who, because of a sudden COVID-19 lockdown, has been forced to endure what Australia's ABC News described as "possibly ... the most awkward blind date of all time."
She decided to document the whole, awkward situation on Douyin, the Chinese version of video-focused social networking service TikTok, leading to her story being picked up by Western media outlets like The Guardian, BBC, Daily Mail, CBS News, and more. Refreshingly, the story is presented without the usual negative twist in all of the Western media reports I found.
"I'm not getting any younger," she said on her Douyin, "so my parents have been setting me up for blind dates – this is the fifth guy, and since he said he's a good cook we decided to have a date at his place over dinner."
CNN said "it was supposed to be a quick get-to-know-you," which swiftly turned into a much longer encounter.
While the couple were awkwardly chatting over their home-cooked meal, the housing complex was suddenly thrown into a two-week lockdown because of a positive case of COVID-19 in the area.
In alignment with China's strict policy of targeted lockdowns to control local cases, that means Wang is unable to leave, despite how awkward the situation may be. (There is probably a lesson to be learned here: It might be a good idea to keep in mind the possibility of being locked down in a less than ideal situation as we get deeper into winter. If you go traveling, make sure you have a plan for your pets if you can't get home, and bring enough medicine to cover an unintended stay of three weeks.)
The Daily Mail mentioned that Wang's parents had lined up 10 blind dates for her, and that her current stint in lockdown is with suitor No. 5.
Wang's situation hasn't only hit a chord with Western audiences, it has also gone viral in China, where the hashtag "Henan girl returns home, ends up quarantined in blind date's house" has been viewed more than 6 million times.
If you were hoping for a Hollywood-style romance to have come from this sitcom-esque setup, I have bad news: There's no spark.
While she confessed online that her blind date's food is "mediocre," she's still happy he is willing to cook for them every day since the lockdown began.
"Apart from his average cooking, he's a good guy," she said, before admitting that romance has not blossomed between the pair.
"He's not a talker," she said. "He's as quiet as a slab of wood."
But this universal story has led to sparks between Western media and China which, while probably just a "one night stand," is a good sign.
It's exactly stories like this – showing Chinese as real, functioning, emotional, funny people – that the Western media sorely lacks. Regardless of where we come from, we all know how awkward and embarrassing first dates can be, and we can all relate to Ms Wang and her current predicament.
Not often enough do Western audiences get the chance to see that – despite superficial language and cultural differences – we are all the same. We are all humans.