Salt Hysteria

In the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which resulted in severe damage to a nuclear power plant, rumors spread in China of possibly disastrous radiation fallout impacting China. Believing that iodized salt could protect against radiation, Chinese rushed to stores across the country, stocking up on salt. In the days that followed, Chinese media turned to a discussion of this hysteria, and the term “salt rumors” or “salt hysteria” (谣盐) was coined to describe this combination of fear, rumor and binge salt purchasing. The term “salt hysteria,” or yao yan, is created in Chinese by replacing the second character in the word “rumor,” yaoyan (谣言), which is the character for “word,” with the homophone for “salt,” yan.

David Bandurski

Now director of the CMP, leading the project’s research and partnerships, David joined the team in 2004 after completing his master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He is currently an honorary lecturer at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre. He is the author of Dragons in Diamond Village (Penguin/Melville House), a book of reportage about urbanization and social activism in China, and co-editor of Investigative Journalism in China (HKU Press).