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Who should apologise: Expressing criticism of public figures on Chinese social media in times of COVID-19

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Discourse and Society
Issue number5
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)622-638
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date9/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Previous studies on public opinion expression in communication, political science and discourse analysis are restricted to a censorship-/counter-censorship frame and focus their analysis on events with political agendas. This study explores netizens’ discursive practice by focusing the analysis on netizens’ language use in context per se, rather than from a censorship/counter- censorship viewpoint. It adopts a discursive pragmatic approach to examine a ‘mundane’ trending topic regarding a dispute between two public figures rather than ‘major’ events with acute social and political agendas. This study present evidence that Weibo users criticise public figures through indirect discursive strategies, including parody of name, constructed dialogues and rhetorical questions. It also highlights two prominent sentiments in Weibo public spheres during the COVID-19 pandemic – cyber nationalism and binary opposition between China and the rest of the world. The online backlash against Fang demonstrates how easily netizens can change their views towards a certain event.