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- Author or Editor: Yu Wang x
The central Chinese city of Wuhan was the initial epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first city to experience lockdown. The 11 million residents of Wuhan were locked down for 76 consecutive days, beginning in late January 2020. Fang Fang, a well-known Chinese writer as well as a resident of the city, published her personal accounts of the lockdown experience in the form of diaries on Weibo and WeChat, two of the most popular Chinese social media platforms. At the beginning, the diaries were well-received by Chinese netizens because of their bold critique of social injustice, corruption, abuse of power, and other sensitive issues in China that deterred the efficient government response to the pandemic. However, soon after the diaries were translated into English and German and published with a fast-track process overseas, Chinese public attitudes towards the diaries drastically swung against it. Many initial supporters turned to express their concerns and suspicions of the publication’s intention. The prevailing opinion was that the writing sabotaged China’s efforts to fight the pandemic and fed into conspiracy theories and wider anti-China political sentiment. The author was criticized as an opportunist and traitor who capitalized on the health crisis to enhance her own credentials. In Chinese social media, a polarized reception of the diaries emerged.
This chapter explores how the diaries have provided a rare discursive site for the Chinese public to engage in political deliberations and ideological debate about democratic liberalism and populist patriotism which co-exist in contemporary China. Empirical data include some key commentary articles1 about the diaries from both sides of arguments that circulated on WeChat and the responses these articles attracted. The chapter also explores some of the lived experiences during lockdown, as described in Fang Fang’s diaries.