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Face Masks on TV and Cheesy Memes: How China’s Pop Culture is Reacting to the New Coronavirus Outbreak

TV networks are leading by example to encourage people to wear face masks, while regular citizens are creating posters to attract and inform older relatives.
coronavirus china pop culture
(L) Photo from (R) Photo from Weibo.

On the morning of Friday, January 24, there were already 25 confirmed deaths in China caused by the new coronavirus that originated from the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. This is a sharp increase from 18, the number previously reported just hours prior. In China alone, there are 830 confirmed and 1,072 suspected cases of infection.

Wuhan has been on lockdown since Thursday, January 23. Flights and trains leaving the city were cancelled and internal transport such as buses, subways, and ferries have been suspended. Travel restrictions have also been applied to some cities surrounding Wuhan, including Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, and Zhijiang.


Now, the media and regular citizens are all trying to deal with the deadly outbreak in their own ways.

Images of news anchors wearing face masks on TV have gone viral on Chinese social media.


Photo from Gao Yuenan on Weibo.

News anchor Gao Yuenan, who works at Hubei-based news channel Hubei Jingshi, explained on a Weibo post that doing so was part of the company’s effort to educate Wuhan residents on virus prevention. She encouraged viewers to wear masks when out in public and demonstrated how to properly wear a mask. The network also advised people to avoid crowded places and wash their hands upon arriving home.


Photo from Gao Yuenan on Weibo.

Other news channels, such as Hubei Weishi, also featured news reporters wearing masks.


Photo from

The move has drawn praises from netizens who believe that this would help to educate the public on safety precautions against the virus.

“I support this. Elderly at home will then know how serious it is now!” said one Weibo user.

“Elderly people only watch television. This is good,” said another comment on Weibo.

Other media companies are also taking precautionary measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The releases of all seven Chinese New Year-themed films, which were scheduled for this weekend, have been cancelled.

Over the span of a few hours on Thursday, January 23, production companies released statements on Weibo announcing that they will be postponing the release of their films out of consideration for public health.


Among them are Boonie Bears: The Wild Life, the latest addition to the popular Boonie Bears series, which has had Chinese New Year releases for the past six years.

“We do not want our audience to bear any health risks when watching. To us, nothing is more important than the safety of our family and children!” a statement on the movie’s official Weibo account reads.

The Chinese National Museum announced on Thursday, January 23, that the museum will be closed indefinitely starting Saturday, January 25, to prevent the spread of the virus among visitors.

Members of the public have also taken the initiative to educate one another on virus prevention. Chinese social media has turned into a public health forum as users share their knowledge and experiences.

For example, many netizens face problems convincing their elderly relatives to take safety precautions against the coronavirus. Their solution? Sharing memes in an aesthetic that looks corny to most of us, but appears to be popular among older generations. These images contain catchy lines about virus prevention.

“2020 New Year Greetings,” one of them reads, “No gathering for meals this year, we can make up for it next year. If you attend a gathering this year, the virus will come for you.”


Another Chinese New Year greeting reads: “One less gathering, stay happy and safe; give your blessings online, it’s fashionable and safe!”


Photo from Weibo.

“‘Mask’ in ‘Face Mask’ has 13 (Chinese character) strokes. So does ‘Prosperity’… wearing a face mask is wearing prosperity… don’t waste a face mask, wear one.”


Photo from Weibo.

Despite the cheesy aesthetic, people have been sharing these images unironically in an attempt to convince stubborn parents and grandparents to take the contagion very seriously. “Thank you! I’ve sent these to my chat group,” commented one Weibo user.