Recently, many media have focused on Chinatown in United States. Under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, these once-famous blocks are now in a closed area, and local shops and residents are struggling to survive.
Life is no longer alive.
Located in San Francisco, Chinatown is the largest and oldest Chinatown in the United States. It is also a beacon for immigrants and the starting point of the “American Dream”. It has faced many tests such as racial discrimination, legislative suppression, and the great earthquake, and the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the biggest tests on the neighborhood for more than a century.
Nowadays, the doors and windows of the shops in the block are closed and dusty, and the vitality of the past is no longer there. Since the coronavirus pandemic, the flow of people here has plummeted, and businesses with no business to do are in trouble.
“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” Betty Louie, an adviser to the San Francisco Chinatown Business Association, said, “It’s like a ghost town.”
Some Chinese doing business there said that the impact of the pandemic had been obvious as early as January this year, and the number of people participating in the Spring Festival parade this year has decreased by 30%, which was a devastating economic blow. The reason behind it is related to the racist remarks brought about by the novel coronavirus.
This also attracted the attention of high-level American politics at that time. In February, Speaker of the House of Representatives Pelosi visited the local community in person to call for people to visit Chinatown. She also visited a local biscuit factory.
But in early March, California announced a stay-at-home order restricting non-essential travel. This has dealt a huge blow to the tourism industry on which San Francisco’s Chinatown depends.
According to the San Francisco Tourism Association, the number of tourists visiting the city this year has halved, and tourism expenditure has also fallen by nearly 70%.
After nine months of pandemic in the United States, some stores here have been completely closed, and some are only open on weekends. Louis estimates that the neighborhood’s commercial revenue has fallen by 85% to 90%.” Some places may never come back to life,” she said.
Try to “help yourself”
Under the ongoing pandemic and strict restrictions, local merchants have become more cautious and find ways to “help themselves”.
Compared with other surrounding neighborhoods, San Francisco Chinatown has done a better job in pandemic prevention and control. The Guardian reports that there are currently about 100 cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, but the number of coronavirus cases exceeds 370 in the nearby Marina neighborhood.
After the relaxation of outdoor catering regulations, some local stores have seen hope. With the help of the Chamber of Commerce and volunteers, the shops set up simple tents on the street to share business space.
In October of the Golden Autumn, Chinatown failed to hold an annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration, so vendors held their own “cloud celebrations” on social media.
The community has also developed an innovative project, Chinatown Alley Tourism. This young-led and designed project includes a historical and cultural tour of Chinatown blocks and alleys, with 15 to 20 people in groups.
“Our field trips stopped in March, but we plan to launch ‘Minecraft’ virtual tours next year,” said Lisa Yu, a senior community organizer at San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center. Virtual game software built and designed by young leaders is still under development and is under internal testing.
However, Chinatown’s survival is still difficult. San Francisco issued a new stay-at-home order last week as California’s coronavirus cases continue to pick up, and the mayor of San Francisco said the city would take strict precautions despite the Bay Area’s intensive care unit availability rate above 25%.
For the shops, this decision is “devastating”. Louis said that everyone was disappointed in this. With a warm climate, San Francisco is one of the few cities in the United States that can eat outdoors in winter, but now the road to survival is blocked again.
Before the winter holiday, some stores had to advertise for closing promotions to attract customers. Ms. Liu, the owner of Chinese art, was one of them. I have never seen such a scene in the past 54 years. I feel very hurt.
The data shows that Chinatowns in other cities in the United States face the same dilemma. Chinatown has experienced a longer and more severe recession than other parts of the city.
According to Yelp, a well-known American merchant review website, from February to November this year, in Chinatown in six cities, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston and Chicago, local restaurants, bars and retail stores lagged behind the rest of these metropolises in consumer interest. . Even in the late stage of the pandemic and after the economic recovery in some areas, Chinatown is still lagging behind.
After visiting several Chinatown communities, Bloomberg pointed out that this is partly due to xenophobia. Hatence against China in the early stage of the pandemic still exists in the hearts of local consumers, and some Chinatown residents are still worried about attacks.
In addition, some Chinatowns are located in the center of the city, such as San Francisco Chinatown, adjacent to the city’s financial district. The pandemic has reduced office staff, which greatly affects the restaurant business in Chinatown. Some Chinatowns are heavily dependent on tourism, but tourism has been sluggish this year under the pandemic.
Sissy Trinh, executive director of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, also pointed out that government departments failed to provide adequate medical assistance to local Chinese and other ethnic minorities.
As the pandemic continues, some Chinatown stores worry that the number of Chinese tourists and other Asian immigrants to the United States may be difficult to get out of the historical lows, and the economic pain caused by the pandemic will have a far-reaching impact.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, some Chinatowns faced long-term economic challenges. For example, the garment manufacturing industry, which Chinatown was proud of, has been shrinking for decades, and has benefited thousands of low-income workers. In addition, the change of the immigration policy of the U.S. government has also become more detrimental to the low-income and low-educated groups in Chinatown. At the same time, many local residents are under pressure on rising rents, and the number of homeless people is rising.
For Chinatown residents, the vaccine and the new U.S. government may give these historic neighborhoods new hope.
Paul Ong, an economist and urban planner at the University of California, Los Angeles, pointed out that the accelerated decline in Chinatown may be an indicator of the broader economic downturn in the United States and also an indicator of economic recovery. Before the situation deteriorates, it needs to be paid enough attention.