A Textual Analysis of the Coverage of SARS and the Image of China --- A Comparative Analysis

Chia-ju Lin


This paper examines the news coverage of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) crisis in 2003 in the US and UK newspapers via a qualitative approach, comparing the dominant news frames used across time and between the newspapers. The four newspapers frame SARS as a global health crisis which resulted from China’s incompetence and mishandling. Moreover, China’s deep-rooted political problems are illustrated because of the nationwide crisis, thus this health crisis is also perceived in the coverage as a serious political threat to the CCP ruling. The theme of China’s initial concealment of information is selected and foregrounded in the newspapers, encouraging and reinforcing readers’ negative perception of China as incompetent to handle a crisis. The image of the Chinese government in the SARS crisis is presented as an incompetent one which cannot effectively control the epidemic and attempts to hide the truth about the disease from its people as well as the outside world. In general, China represents not only an autocratic authority, but also an outdated communist country in the newspapers.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/ass.v8n3p49

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