As China’s battle against the coronavirus outbreak continues, anger has spilled over online, testing the leadership’s capacity to achieve what it calls “guidance of public opinion,” or the control of society through information control. Users on WeChat, Weibo and many other platforms have shared stories, photos, video, or simply vented their rage at what many see as the inadequacy of the government’s response, particularly at the early stages of the outbreak.

And as communities across China mobilize against the spread of the disease, they are naturally exercising one very creative (and often revealing) aspect of the country’s political culture – the ubiquitous “slogan,” or biāoyǔ (标语).  Such slogans, which may deal with local or national policy issues as well as the personal — everything from (in the past) the one-child policy, to pushing basic social mores (like caring for one’s parents), to protests over the forced demolition of one’s home — are generally very simple in structure, direct (or even crude) and easy to understand.

As one post on China’s WeChat platform noted today, slogans should be artful enough to have the capacity to “intimidate, seduce, threaten or coerce.”

Here we share a number of current slogans invented in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak that have appeared on social media (see link above) and are reportedly from communities across China. We provide in some cases only approximate translations for these clever and frightful creations, some quite difficult to fully convey.

[1]

口罩还是呼吸机,

您老看着二选一

A face mask or a breathing tube,

Make a choice, it’s up to you.

[2]

带病回乡, 不孝儿郎

传染爹娘,丧尽天良

Returning home with your disease,

Will not make your parents pleased.

Infect mom and dad,

And your conscience is bad.

[3]

省小钱不戴口罩,

花大钱卧床治病

Save money not wearing a mask,

Spend big getting cured in your sickbed.

[4]

不聚餐是为了以后还能吃饭,

不串门是为了以后还有亲人

Not gathering for a feast is so you can eat in the future,

Not visiting others is so you still have relatives in the future.

[5]

今年过年不串门,

来串门的是敌人

敌人来了不开门

No visits from the New Year this year,

Those who come visiting are enemies.

We don’t open the door for enemies.

[6]

发烧不说的人,

都是潜伏在人民群众中的阶级敌人

Those who don’t mention their fever,

Are class enemies lurking among the people.

[7]

老实在家防感染,

丈人来了也得撵”

Earnestly prevent the infection of your home,

Casting out even your in-laws if they come.

[8]

本户有武汉返乡人员,请勿相互来往!

This house has a returnee from Wuhan,

Please do not come visit!