Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Studies in Media and Communication Vol. 9, No. 2; December 2021



This is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license


US government communication about the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the ‘Chinese virus’ discourse adopted by Donald Trump and his administration, has led to real-world violence and triggered heated discussions across social media sites, including Sina Weibo (aka Chinese Twitter). The current study explores the relationship between populism and social media by examining how Sina Weibo users respond to Trump’s communication on the virus. Employing multimodal critical discourse analysis, we examine both visual and verbal strategies used to build counter-discourses that challenge the use of terms such as ‘Chinese virus’. Findings demonstrate the potential of Weibo as a platform of resistance and site where users contest social injustice and racism, but also as a dangerous space in which populist discourses can yield more populist discourses which influence public sentiment and potentially government policies and international relations.