China’s attempt to steer coronavirus narrative through drama series backfires
09/26/2020 // Ramon Tomey // Views

A new television drama about China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic drew flak on Chinese social media, amid efforts by the Chinese central government to steer the narrative about its handling of the pandemic. The 14-episode propaganda series “Heroes in Harm’s Way” was part of the government’s push to promote its success in containing the virus responsible for COVID-19 to a skeptical Chinese public.

Eight episodes of “Heroes in Harm’s Way” have aired since Sept. 17 on official state broadcaster Chinese Central Television (CCTV), but users on Chinese social media platforms have called it to be pulled from the air. Criticism of the show included its undermining of women’s contributions in containing the virus and its failure to reflect the hardship endured by medical workers.

A user on social media site Weibo called on CCTV to “stop revising history” and stop broadcasting the series, adding that the show “must be the correct collective memory” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wanted to leave. User review platform Douban had to disable its rating function after people gave the show a measly 2.4 out of ten points.

The state broadcaster, meanwhile, has responded to the intense vitriol on Chinese social media. It described “Heroes in Harm’s Way” as a drama with widespread good reviews and removed criticism in the comment section.

A report by the state-run China News Service described the drama series as a mosaic of stories about how Chinese people in different fields fought through the first coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan to show courageous heroism to fight and win. The show’s chief producer is Shen Haixiong, a deputy minister of the CCP’s propaganda department.


An insult to both women and doctors who contributed to China’s fight against COVID-19

Weibo users pointed out two scenes in the drama belittling the contributions of women.

The first scene featured the head of a Wuhan bus company trying to form an emergency service team during the city lockdown. The bus company head then said: “All volunteers are men, are there any women who want to join?” The second scene involves a male doctor telling a female colleague that she can just “stay aside to assist” just because she was a woman.

The depictions in “Heroes in Harm’s Way” are a far cry from the truth: Almost 70 percent of the 42,000 medical staff sent to Wuhan to relieve the city’s overwhelmed hospitals were female, according to China’s National Health Commission. (Related: Chinese authorities hid the fact that medical staff in coronavirus-hit city were infected.)

Doctors who were also on Weibo wrote how they felt insulted by how the show portrayed the work of actual medical professionals. They pointed out mistakes in how medical moves were performed in the show, such as giving injections and making chest compressions.

One doctor wrote that all the difficulties endured by the medical staff in Wuhan “should not be humiliated by such unprofessional practices. He added that the erroneous scenes should be re-shot in case the drama was to be aired overseas.

Another user remarked that the show adamantly promoted a sanitized version of events—devoid of controversies such as cover-ups, medical supply shortages, and chaotic lockdowns. “All these don’t exist, because they’re not correct. The only correct collective memory is victory.”

Chinese Communist Party is continuously censoring the truth

Despite reports that the coronavirus situation in China is under control, actual figures from hospitals do not match those indicated in official reports. In addition, the Chinese government is going after whistleblowers documenting the real situation on the ground.

Even Dr. Li-Meng Yan, the virologist who revealed the artificial origins of the coronavirus, was aware of the Chinese government’s censorship and “how the CCP treats whistleblowers” who expose irregularities.

She initially researched on early COVID-19 cases in December 2019. Given that data from the Chinese government was unreliable, Yan turned to her friends assigned in various medical facilities for more accurate data.

Medical professionals, especially those from Wuhan, soon became tight-lipped about the virus. Yan presented her findings to her supervisor, who warned her not to touch “the red line”. This turn of events led to her escape from Hong Kong onboard a Cathay Pacific flight.

Based on data collated by Johns Hopkins University, China has a total COVID-19 caseload of 90,381 as of writing. The country recorded 4,737 deaths and 85,257 recoveries.

Find out more news about China’s continuous censorship of the truth about the coronavirus at

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