What it's like to be in Hangzhou, China during the G20

Hangzhou during the G20 is not a fun place to be. Granted, any place during the G20 is not somewhere you'd want to be hanging around, what with the tightened security and closure of public infrastructure that comes along with hosting an event of such importance, but Hangzhou definitely takes it one step further.

I came back last week from my grand world tour (which, by the way, is going to see me living off instant noodles for the rest of my time on exchange - NO RAGRETS) to find that quite a lot has changed. In the past, the campus has always been relatively empty at this time of year as students go back home for the holidays but this year, thanks to the G20, has turned it into practically a ghost town.

There are four people living on my floor in the dorms right now, as opposed to the 25-ish that were there in June. Four out of the six cafeterias on campus have shut down and the remaining two are only open for a couple of hours every day. That would be fine if it wasn't also for the fact that most of the restaurants and cafes outside campus weren't also closed 'due to the G20'. What bearing could small independent cafes located miles away from the actual meeting location have on the G20? I don't know but clearly the government has deemed them a threat to national security so y'all should just order your cappuccinos and make your plans of sabotage elsewhere.

Screenshot of Baidu maps showing a section of the lake which has been blocked off
For fun, here's a whole bunch of other changes that have taken place. Some of these are actually reasonable whilst others are laughably ridiculous:

  1. Areas around the West Lake have been cordoned off so if you're thinking of doing some sightseeing of Hangzhou's most famous attraction, don't. 
  2. Many gyms and swimming pools have been closed so if you're thinking of exercising off all that fried chicken and sushi you ate on holidays, you can't. 
  3. The guard at the north gate of campus will no longer let you come in after 6pm. You've got to the take the long way round (about a 15 minute walk). But that's totally fine because:
  4. Most clubs and bars, in they aren't closed for the G20, are only open until 12am anyway. Party? What party? You're better off having a Netflix party in your room by yourself. Oh, but living on campus isn't exactly easy now because:
  5. They're renovating the kitchens on campus so you can no longer access drinking water in the international dorm. Want to make tea, oats or instant noodles? You should probably invest in a kettle and just leave it in your room. 
  6. But like, make sure shops are open for you to actually buy the kettle because chances are, they've been closed for the G20. 
  7. Even if you want to live off campus for the time being, a weird new rule that they've introduced only allows foreigners to stay in 4 or 5 star accommodation during the G20. So if you're broke af (like me), it's clearly not an option
  8. Carry your passport with you at all times because random checks (especially for foreigners) are now a thing

On the upside, internet has never been faster since you don't have to compete with other students for torrenting speed. I may or may not have binge watched Stranger Things in two days because of this. Sidenote: The night that I finished episode 2 was the night my bathroom light started acting up. Flickering lights + episode 2 of Stranger Things + an irrational fear of the dark that I've never gotten over = lol sleep, what sleep?

Notice at the gym stating that due to the G20, y'all gotta take your fat arses somewhere else to exercise. 
My theory is that the government is closing down all these services and facilities, not because they are a disturbance to the G20 preparations per se, but that they want to make it as inconvenient as possible for people to be in Hangzhou during the summit. The more people they can get out, the better it is for the city's image, cleanliness, traffic, air quality, etc.

I recently got an email from the Chinese university stating that they're giving away free trips to students to areas outside of Hangzhou. They didn't outright say 'get out of here during the summit' but the condition was that you had to take the trips during specific dates...dates which coincide with the G20 duration.

Even though it seems like a lot of these measures are specifically targeted at foreigners (try getting into a club nowadays without a Chinese ID card - not gonna happen unless you know a promoter inside), in actual fact, everyone is being inconvenienced in one way or another.

We've heard stories of specially employed G20 policemen wandering the streets asking locals where the places to eat are now, since the usual restaurants are closed. The guard who refused the let me into the campus through the north gate last night (despite my persistent wheedling) wasn't an ass about it and said that yes, he understood that it was inconvenient but we just had to bear with it until after the G20.

I've asked my Chinese friends what they and other Chinese people think about the G20 and she said that even though it is a big inconvenience for the locals, they understand that it is only temporary so they are happy to put up with it. Furthermore, the G20 has seen a massive increase in public spending on cleaning up the city and restoring certain parts of it to its former glory. This is definitely something that I can't argue with, especially since the rivers and roads have never looked more clean.

It's amazing actually how united everyone has been about this. The general consensus among the citizens is that if it affects the government, it will inevitably affect the people so everyone has to pull their weight and make the necessary sacrifices.

Personally, I don't feel like the changes have really made my time here that much worse. Yes they're inconvenient and at first I was bored brainless but since my friends have come back from their travels, days here haven't been too bad. Plus I'm making plans with people to get out of here during the actual summit so maybe that way we can dodge the worst of the G20 bullet. 

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