Updated Jan 12, 2023, 5:06pm EST
East Asia

Chinese media is sending mixed signals about a second COVID wave


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The News

Over the last week, several local health authorities in China have begun to sound the alarm on a potential second wave of COVID in the coming months, with cities like Shaoxing and Zhangzhou warning residents that infections could rise again in the wake of Lunar New Year.

However, Chinese news outlets and journalists are sending mixed signals on whether the country needs to brace for a second wave or not.

Take, for instance, the language in these two articles and a Weibo post from a former state media journalist this week:

China National Radio:

"The mutated strain will not cause a big wave in China in the near future, nor will it cause a peak of severe illness," according to Zeng Guang, the former chief epidemiologist at China's Centers for Disease Control.

AD, NetEase's News Site:

"Regarding the question of when the peak of the second wave of infections will come, Zhang Wenhong [China's "Dr. Fauci"] infers that it will be between May and June this year, and estimates that the proportion of infected people in the second wave of the epidemic will be 25%-50%."

Hi Xijin, state media journalist, on Weibo

“I still want to advise those who claim that China will soon experience a second or third wave of infection: please make your words clear, and don’t use the tsunami of infection just experienced to compare it to the speed of a next wave," Hi Xijin, the former editor in chief of the Global Times, posted on Weibo where he has 25 million followers. "Figure it out first, and don't scare ordinary netizens."

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The View From Weibo

While many in China are taking advantage of the country opening up, on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, several users appeared to be either confused or worried about the next wave of infections.


"The second peak is coming, I am very scared, I don't want my family to be hurt, I hope they are safe and sound," posted one user.

Weibo on second wave

Others were critical of reports dismissing concerns of a second wave, with some rebuffing Hu directly.

“If the second wave and the third wave of infection really come -- if the people and the hospital listen to your bluff and fail to prepare medicines and hospital beds, will it be true then?" wrote one person.

Weibo on Hu
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The View From The United States

Many in China are concerned about the XBB.1.5 subvariant which is now the dominant strain in the United States. The CDC last week issued a warning about the subvariant, saying it is "spreading quickly" and likely the most contagious strain of COVID to date. U.S. COVID hospitalizations have begun to slowly rise over the last week.