Transition, Disinformation, and Wuhan Diary: Anatomy of a Transpacific Cyber Campaign


During the early days of the COVID-19 health crisis, Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary provided an important portal for people around the world to understand the outbreak, local response, and how the novel coronavirus was impacting everyday people. But when news of the international publication of Wuhan Diary appeared online in early April of 2020, Fang Fang’s writings became the target of a series of online attacks by “Chinese ultra-nationalists.” Over time, these attacks morphed into one of the most sophisticated and protracted hate Campaigns against a Chinese writer in decades. Meanwhile, as controversy around Wuhan Diary swelled in China, the author was transformed into a global icon, honored by the BBC as one of the most influential women of 2020 and featured in stories by dozens of international news outlets.

This book, by the translator of Wuhan Diary into English, alternates between a first-hand account of the translation process and more critical observations on how a diary became a lightning rod for fierce political debate and the target of a sweeping online campaign that many described as a “cyber Cultural Revolution.” Eventually, even Berry would be pulled into the attacks and targeted by thousands of online trolls.

This book answers the questions: why would an online lockdown diary elicit such a strong reaction among Chinese netizens? How did the controversy unfold and evolve? Who was behind it? And what can we learn from the “Fang Fang Incident” about contemporary Chinese politics and society? The book will be of interest to students and scholars of translation, as well as anyone with special interest in translation, US-Chinese relations, or internet culture more broadly.