Incongruous concerto: A Media Spectacle Study on Chinese Public Communication during the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia


The novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) has kicked off a storm of public opinion in China since its outbreak in Wuhan in late December 2019. During this special period, the joint aim of all the media and transmission channels is to help to control the spread of pneumonia, arise individual’s awareness and at the same time, avoid panic around the society. Through the interaction and division of work, media of different levels are supposed to wield their influence over different groups of audience, thus forming a consolidated public opinion environment. However, the information provided by various media is quite different, even opposite. Because of advertising the misjudgment made by some local officials at the beginning of the epidemic, some official media have damaged their credibility to some extent.

On the other hand, self-media and individual netizens as communicators have proven their prominence in information disseminating and fact-checking and provided timely and valuable information for other people. With the aid of the Chinese social media network, self-media and individual communicators reinforce their status and play their decisive roles in the discussion of public affairs. It was a screenshot of WeChat group chatting that made the novel coronavirus noticed by the public. However, some fake news and stories spread by self-media have also aroused public panic and anxiety inevitably.

In summary, the media spectacle in this period is the concentrated expression of the unique characteristics of the Chinese communication system. So, this paper adopts the method of media spectacle study to analyze the multi-layered public communication system rapidly established in China during the spread of novel coronavirus pneumonia. After sorting out the media materials, we carry out case studies of significant events at each stage, to further study its entire media landscape and the ideology embedded, using research methods of content analysis and knowledge archeology accordingly. Furthermore, by analyzing government and ordinary people in the field of public opinion, this paper will study the reconstruction of the interaction system between official and non-governmental individuals in the face of emergency and analyze the characteristics and contributions of different kinds of media.

Based on the existing peer research on the communication paradigm of significant and unexpected events in China, this study combines the review of media history and the new development in the digital age. It will touch on new media and self-media which are rarely noticed in previous studies. Hopefully, this study will respond to the concerns of the international community and provide ideas for future studies.