Health, Concerns, and Finance: News Framing of Wearing Masks in China From 2001 to 2020

Zhifei Mao, Huaxin Peng, Di Wang, Mengfan He, Kun Zhou


Since the COVID-19 outbreaks, masks have become one of the most controversial topics throughout the world. However, the pro-mask atmosphere seems to be formed smoothly in China, at least in the beginning and peak of epidemic. To understand the social construction of masks in China, this study examines the media framing of masks from 2001 to 2020 in two important newspapers, the People’s Daily and the Southern Metropolis Daily. We found that pro-mask discourse portrayed wearing masks first as an emergent and undesired health strategy; later, as an inevitable measure against constant crises; and lastly, part of the new normality. The legalization of wearing masks lies in the severity of a certain health crisis, the effectiveness that masks can protect citizens from such crisis, a comparatively low cost that to exchange for normal lives under a crisis, and the fact that it could overall benefit China’s national image and interests. Moreover, masks have been constructed as a financially promising business and a trendy fashion, which further justifies their existence. The counterdiscourses against masks appeared when the conditions that justified masks were questioned.


masks, media framing, Chinese media, COVID-19

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