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The present study is an analysis of a sample of reports on China’s handling of COVID-19 by several major US media with a focus on a controversial op-ed by the Wall Street Journal. It is found that instead of covering it objectively as a public health crisis, these media reports tend to adopt the strategy of naming, shaming, blaming, and taming against China. In other words, they seize the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan as an opportunity to serve Trump’s “America First” doctrine by a coordinated attempt to destroy the Chinese dream and arresting China’s ascendency. First, the naming/shaming technique is used to tarnish China’s image as a virus. The op-ed on the Wall Street Journal describes China as “the real sick man of Asia.” In addition, a cluster of ferociously negative names are slung onto China to describe the coronavirus as “the Wuhan virus,” “the Belt & Road Initiative pandemic,” “the China virus,” and so on. Second, the blaming technique is applied. On top of such negative name-calling, these media tend to blame the Chinese leadership, the political system, and finally Chinese food culture for eating pangolins. Finally, the taming technique is used to constrain, isolate, or quarantine China. One goal behind such a China threat strategy is to fan American or foreign businesses to move (back) to the United States out of China. Another goal is to create the public opinion environment that would be conducive to some American groups’ litigations against China. It is concluded that American mainstream media while quarreling with the Trump administration for domestic affairs seem to be colluding with the conservative intellectual base in the United States in supporting Trump’s strategy to knock down and divide China.


This article was originally published in Global Media and China, volume 6, issue 1, in 2021.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.


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