This just in….
I just got an email from the US embassy in Beijing that takes a few very long-winded paragraphs to explain that this is just the ordinary every day email they send out every ordinary day and there’s nothing to be concerned about. BUT, it goes on to instruct Americans living in China to (the rest is directly copied from this everday email):
— Assemble all vital documents such as passports, birth and marriage
records, vaccination, insurance and bank records in one readily accessible
— Check to be sure your passport and any necessary visas are valid and
that you have registered at the Embassy/Consulate with your current address and
phone number. If you need to obtain a new passport or to update your
registration, please do so at the Embassy as soon as possible.
Make or update as necessary a complete inventory of your household
— Maintain an adequate supply of food, water, and necessary
medications in your home. Make sure your car is in good working order. Keep the
gas tank full and check oil, coolant, tires, and battery.
We do not want American citizens to become unduly alarmed. These are
precautionary measures only. Given the potential for acts of violence,
terrorism, anti-American demonstrations, or natural disasters, all of
which could necessitate an evacuation from a region or local area, we
believe it is important for all citizens to maintain readiness for all
possibilities in case of an emergency. We will promptly inform you of any
significant developments and advise you
End of cut/paste.
Okay. This may indeed be just an everyday email that the State Department sends out because they are afraid there may be an earthquake or a flood someday and they want to make sure I have enough bottles of Evian water and cans of tuna fish in the cupboard. Or it could be that they received some terrorist threat that scared the absolute shit out of them and they feel its believable enough that they’d better cover their asses just in case something really bad happens and they get accused of failing to let us know. I have no opinion either way. But you can sure tell as you read this email that the writer was absolutely squirming, trying to say in one breath there’s no cause for alarm, and in the other to tell you you’d better be ready to run and run fast. Most unusual.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.