Boris Johnson in hospital: a Chinese gaze at Western democracies in the COVID-19 pandemic

Altman Yuzhu Peng, Ivy Shixin Zhang, James Cummings, Xiaoxiao Zhang

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In this article, we examine Chinese assessments of Western democratic systems in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research is based on an up-to-date case study of how Chinese Internet users discussed the UK Prime Minister – Boris Johnson’s infection with COVID-19 in late March and early April 2020. The research collected original data from the Chinese community question-answering (CQA) site – Zhihu. Using a mixed-method approach, consisting of content analysis (CA) and thematic analysis (TA), we show how Zhihu users evaluate the incident (1) as a way to express their sentiments towards Boris Johnson, (2) as a case to assess British politics and (3) as a vehicle for rationalizing their views on Western democratic systems in relation to China’s domestic politics. The research findings shed new light on a Chinese gaze at Western democratic systems in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-91
Number of pages16
JournalMedia International Australia
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Boris Johnson
  • China
  • Chinese gaze
  • community question-answering (CQA) site
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • prime minister
  • the UK
  • Western democracy
  • Zhihu

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