Coping with self-isolation: Danger and opportunity, a tale from Wuhan

Thursday 9 April 2020

CFA UK Insights

Author:Joanne Frearson

Born in Wuhan, Bixuan Xu, Analyst and Portfolio Manager for Global Equities at Allianz Global Investors, left the city many years ago, growing up partly in Germany and then moving to the UK. 

But she has family ties including her father in the city, which has been the epicentre of the coronavirus, and Xu has been giving them support following the lockdown in January. Now being in a similar situation herself and having to go through a period of self-isolation before the UK lockdown began, she has some wise words about living in solitary. 

She describes the situation we are all in with the Chinese word ‘weiji,’ which means danger and opportunity. By opportunity, Xu means this is also a period where we can learn new behaviours and habits to benefit us for the long-term. 



“In every crisis, whether it's financial or in real life, it is a great opportunity to reflect, to learn things about yourself, the world and to improve yourself,” says Xu. 

This is reflected in her father’s own personal journey of being lockdown and isolated in Wuhan. In the beginning her father was very concerned. 

“He is an entrepreneur,” she says. “He has his business. He was very worried about what would happen to his business if it is locked down for three-months.” 

But as the days went past his attitude started to change and he began focusing on the good things in life and the fact his family were healthy. 

“The way how he spent his time was he cooked three meals for himself, normally my mother does that,” Xu says. “He wrote calligraphy, that kept him calm, that's like a kind of meditation. But the highlight of his day was really to have to face time with my daughter, who is nearly one-years old.” 

Xu also found during this time she became a lot closer to her family in China and talked frequently to her Aunt and Grandma. 

“The bond to family is really important for people to survive or to feel good about things despite the uncertainty,” says Xu.

Have a routine

When Xu had to do her own initial self-isolation after coming across someone who potentially had Covid-19, her family was there to help her through it. Having a routine also helped her. 

“During the 14 days, it was not so difficult, because I still worked every day like normal, but just with remote access,” she says. “We have morning meetings and also team meetings, we have those investment processes in place, so sticking to a routine was very helpful.”

Thanks to good technology, video calls and her already flexible work culture she did not find the situation particularly challenging. Also being a portfolio manager in global equities, virtual meetings with offices around the world were already the norm.   

But Xu says: “I do miss my colleagues and I would be quite glad to go back to work to the office again.” 

Her advice for others on lockdown is to put the situation into perspective. “Zoom out your time horizon and just think how lucky actually our generation has been, especially living in the UK,” says Xu. 

Xu also recommends to “focus on how you want to spend, today and even if you are infected tomorrow, at least you had a really good day today.” 

In Wuhan, the lockdown is slowly being lifted, but it is not over yet and there are still stringent measures in place to contain the virus. 

“It's not like one peak and then it goes away,” she says. “It's not. People in their mindset are probably still in a war zone and this will probably also be true for our lives in the UK. … It’s danger and opportunity.”

This article was recorded on Friday 27th March over Zoom. 


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