“I’m amazed at how Chinese Germany has become”

Good evening to Beijing, Mrs. Schimanowski, and good morning to New York, Mr. Brisch. They both work in corona pandemic hotspots. Under what restrictions do you live there?

Martin Benninghoff

Schimanowski: Life in Beijing is still very limited, even though the number of corona cases in China has dropped sharply and the government is pushing ahead with economic and consumer recovery.

Do you trust the official figures in China?

Schimanowski: As good as it gets (in the sense of: “Can you work with”, author’s note). The restrictions and controls are still very present. For example, through the digital health code: you have to partially prove that you have been in the same place for 14 days. This is handled somewhat loosely in other provinces, but in Beijing you still have to be particularly strict about the quarantine requirements. Schools and universities have been completely closed since the end of January. At the start of classroom teaching in Beijing, unlike in other provinces, there are still no official announcements at the universities. We assume that the summer semester will continue to run digitally and largely without the presence of the students. The freedom of movement for students will be severely restricted after returning to campus. But in Germany it is basically similar when I see how much basic rights and everyday life have been restricted for social distancing! I’m amazed at how Chinese Germany has become.

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Ruth Schimanowski, DAAD office in Beijing

And in New York?

Brisch: It is similar in America to Germany: Many are in the home office, local transport is empty, people are now wearing all masks, many also gloves. The infection rate is high, there are many deaths, but in the daily life of most New Yorkers this drama, which is conveyed in the media via the images of mass burials and intensive care units, is not necessarily to be seen. I receive inquiries from Germany as I can endure in New York – but that only partially corresponds to the realities here. But no question, this isolation and the knowledge of the many victims is a burden for everyone here. And of course people are worried about the economic standstill and high unemployment. There is simply no social network here that catches people. Many also lose health insurance with their jobs.

As a DAAD, you take care of the academic exchange of knowledge. But travel is hardly possible anymore. Where are the foreign students now?

Brisch: The situation naturally affects our exchange programs. The Americans have brought back almost all of their sponsored scholarships from abroad. However, especially those who are resident in America and have only been abroad for shorter stays. Some scientists or students who live longer in Europe or elsewhere have also stayed there. Every year there are around 9,000 German students and 4,800 German scientists in America. More than half of the DAAD sponsors returned to Germany, but a significant group also stayed here. Most of the American universities have cleared their dormitories, and the famous American campus culture is currently no longer in use.

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