Chinese Social Media Erupts as Coronavirus Continues to Spread

When footage of a video posted on social media by official Chinese News Media that showed 137 health workers, bound for Wuhan and other areas affected by the Coronavirus, being praised for their sacrifice and heroism- it was met with sarcasm and criticism of how the outbreak was being handled.

In an article from the New York Times by Raymond Zhong, he writes about how the government released the video in an attempt to shape the public’s opinion surrounding the Coronavirus crisis, but the state-developed media only provoked angered comments and memes mocking government officials. As well as responses describing and posting images/videos of the reality of the situation in overcrowded and understaffed hospitals, untreated or neglected friends/family members, and even piles of seemingly lifeless bodies in hospital hallways, some presumed to be dead.

The Chinese government has a history of keeping a tight grip on censorship, but with the amount of content flooding social media because of the Coronavirus, and avoiding internet censors by speaking in ‘code’ because of the Coronavirus, Beijing is having trouble controlling the narrative. Articles and comments continue to be deleted and the Chinese government continues to warn citizens about the harm of ‘rumors’ and penalties that spreading them might bring. 

China’s government was able to cover up the SARS virus of 2000 because social media was at its early age which meant that only some reporters and journalists were focusing on it, and the scale of the issue was never realized by Chinese citizens. The age of smartphones and social media makes everyone with a camera and data plan a reporter which makes it much harder to bury a health crisis like the one posed by the Coronavirus. While the Chinese government argues that misinformation on internet platforms creates panic and reactions that cause damage when dealing with a public health crisis, but citizens still feel as if the government is withholding information and keeping economic and social stability above stopping the virus. 

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