The Penn Wharton China Center, located in Beijing’s financial district, will remain closed until Feb. 10 at the earliest due to the coronavirus outbreak, as mandated by Chinese government regulations.
PWCC Director John Zhang said that the center closed for Spring Festival, also known as Lunar New Year, on Jan. 24 and expected to reopen on Jan. 30. According to Betty He, general manager of the PWCC, the center’s employees will continue working remotely until Feb. 10, at the earliest. This date, set by the Chinese government, is subject to change if the coronavirus situation worsens, Zhang added.
The PWCC opened in March 2015 and is registered as a consulting company in Beijing, Zhang said. The center works to facilitate Penn student and faculty research and expand Wharton’s impact on business practices in China.
On Dec. 31, Chinese authorities detected a new deadly strain of coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan, China, according to The Washington Post. The total death toll rose to 492 on Tuesday with 20,000 confirmed cases around the world, 11 of which are in the United States, USA Today reported.
Although Beijing is more than 700 miles away from the central city of Wuhan, the disease has spread rapidly to other cities in the country. Of the 20,000 cases, only 30 are outside mainland China.
Zhang, who has served as director for the PWCC since its opening, said the center has 10 staff members. Five staff members are full-time while the remaining five include a cleaning crew and receptionist.
Zhang said that even though the virus has not affected Beijing like it has Wuhan and other cities in China, he has been in communication with PWCC staff members since the outbreak.
“The safety of the staff, of course, is the most important thing to us,” Zhang said. “We will do everything possible to make sure that they are not exposed to the virus because of the work.”
In Beijing, He said that the biggest change has been a widespread anxiety among the population. Instead of taking the subway, He has been riding her bike when she leaves her house to decrease the risk of infection.
“In the normal time, we have a lot of traffic, a lot of people moving and people gathering,” He said. “Now, because of the coronavirus, there are few people on the streets and few people taking public transportation.”
The PWCC holds various events throughout the year, including think tank forums and Wharton alumni meetings. According to He, all events for the month of February have been canceled. Staff members are using this time to conduct a five-year report for the PWCC and strengthen the center’s presence on WeChat, a popular social media app in China.
Every year, the PWCC coordinates with the University to host the Penn Wharton China Summit. The summit will take place on Penn’s campus on April 10th to 12th to promote communication and connections between students and working professionals in the United States and China.
College junior Emily Yiming, who is co-chair of the summit, said that some of the speakers for the upcoming summit are coming from China and remains optimistic that the outbreak will be resolved by then.
“Every year we have over 1,500 different [attendees] come from different countries and different cities,” Yiming said. “Personally, I believe the coronavirus is just temporary. It will be overcome soon.”
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