In the days leading up to a major international summit, the residents of San Francisco were shocked to find their streets free of homeless encampments, drug addicts, pimps, and dealers. The sudden disappearance of the city’s marginalized inhabitants raised questions about whether a political revolution had taken place or if there was another reason behind the vanishings.
As the city prepared to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, efforts were made to hide its seedier side from the world’s gaze. This was not the first time such measures had been taken for diplomatic purposes. In 1787, Russian Empress Catherine II embarked on a journey to impress Russia’s allies before hostilities broke out. To enhance the appearance of the countryside, Grigory Potemkin constructed ‘mobile villages’ that were quickly disassembled and rebuilt to create the illusion of prosperity. While the historicity of this story is disputed, the concept of a ‘Potemkin village’ is used to describe the practice of creating a false impression to deceive others.
In the case of San Francisco’s disappearing homeless population, the challenge was to maintain the appearance of a thriving city while avoiding the problem of empty storefront properties. The impending arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping, a prominent guest at the summit, highlighted the issue. The disappearance of famous retail chains and the deteriorating condition of the city raised concerns about its prospects for business and tourism.
The Democratic city leaders’ tolerance of rampant crime and unsafe conditions in San Francisco was a significant factor contributing to the city’s decline. The Department of Health and Human Services advised its federal employees to work from home due to safety concerns, further highlighting the dire state of the city. The exodus from San Francisco, including the loss of 65,000 people, indicated a significant decline in its population and attractiveness as a place to live.
The temporary exile of thousands of homeless people hooked on highly addictive drugs, such as meth and opioids, raised questions about the feasibility of tolerating such deplorable conditions only to create a facade of prosperity for international events.
As US President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping planned to meet on the sidelines of the APEC summit, the potential for discussion about the state of San Francisco was raised. While Biden may prioritize climate change and promoting democracy as talking points, Xi Jinping might question the once-beautiful city’s current state. The contrast between the city’s facade and its actual conditions highlighted the challenges facing San Francisco and the issues that would likely be discussed at the summit.
In conclusion, the disappearance of San Francisco’s homeless population ahead of the international summit raised questions about the city’s real condition and the measures taken to hide its issues from the international community. The efforts to create a facade of prosperity in preparation for the summit highlighted the challenges facing the city and the need for real solutions to its problems.