Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Residents of Xi’an Resort to Bartering for Food Amid Lockdown

Lucy Crawford
Born and raised in China, Lucy Crawford has been living in Canada for over 20 years. She has great sympathy for Chinese and human suffering in general. With a Master's degree in Education and having worked on various professions, she now translates and writes about stories in ancient and modern China. She lives in Calgary with her husband and four children.
Published: January 5, 2022
Residents of Xi'an are forced to quarantine at home. As food is running out, people have started to barter for food. (Photo source: video screenshot)

China’s extreme COVID-19 measures have forced people to resort to bartering for food for the sake of survival. 

On Dec. 23, 2021, China’s first-tier city, Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, went into full lockdown. After it failed to clear out the COVID-19 cases, the city launched even more strict measures on Dec. 27, forbidding people from going out shopping. 13 million residents have been forced to stay home in quarantine. 

Social media posts have started to surface where people are complaining about being hungry and unable to buy food.  Residents have started to trade by barter in order to solve the food shortage. 

“As of January 2, 2022, Xi’an has been under a forced lockdown for over a week. It is reported that local people are unable to go out to buy basic necessities, resulting in food shortages at home. So people have begun bartering among themselves to temporarily obtain the food they need,” said the tweet. 

“When the belly is hungry to a certain extent, the rest is just a floating cloud. Save life is the most important! Online news: barter, a bag of rice = an Apple phone, a tablet computer ……

–Coordinates Xi’an! This is now the reality!” reads the tweet. 

“Xi’an people’s current situation, bartering,” the tweet says. The video footage shows “A bag of rice is traded for an Apple phone and a tablet computer.” 

The video shows, “Two boxes of cigarettes are traded for a cabbage, a tomato, and a carrot.” 

The tweet reads, “Half a bottle of vinegar for two vegetarian buns, half a jar of oil for two packages of sanitary pads.” 

Anti-epidemic staff are recruiting volunteers, “The daily compensation is one box of instant noodles plus one piece of sausage. I know it’s very attractive. You can talk to your landlords to volunteer.” 

Amid the lockdown, some have also started to trade labor for meals.  In actuality, the bartering in Xi’an is said to have occurred as early as Dec. 29, 2021. 

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that nearly 30,000 police officers were deployed throughout Xi’an to implement the city-wide lockdown. 

A Chinese expert in outbreak prevention and control measures said that the measures around Shaanxi were not simply to prevent the outbreak. “The full lockdown is the way it should be if it was aimed at Wuhan last year, but the Omicron variant of the virus is now more contagious, but the lethality is very low and the rate of serious illness is also very low. In the case of the Xi’an lockdown, it’s not really about preventing an outbreak, I feel it’s about controlling people.”

Chinese American media professional Cao Changqing tweeted, “U.S. media today is reporting heavily on day 13 of the city lockdown in Xi’an and the plight of residents. Many are running out of food and have begun bartering. Local residents have been showing on their social media feeds saying, ‘we are back in a primitive society: trading phones, computers, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. for food like vegetables and buns.’ Another 1,000 or so residents were rushed to the quarantine zone, where the facilities were rudimentary. People were driven out of their homes on cold nights, reminiscent of Schindler’s List. The Chinese Communist Party is using the outbreak as an excuse to use excessive force and is more ugly than the Nazis.”