(2022) ‘Subtitling Disinformation Narratives around COVID-19.‘Foreign’ Vlogging in the Construction of Digital Nationalism in Chinese Social Media’

in Mona Baker (ed.) Unsettling Translation, London & New York: Routledge, 232-247.

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This chapter focuses on subtitled vlogs published by Western influencers on Chinese social media at the behest of the Chinese authorities. In particular, it explores the role these vlogs play in promoting official narratives about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a media ecosystem characterized by restricted access to foreign content and the absence of public debate on matters pertaining to the image that China attempts to project abroad, foreign vlogs, I argue, are deployed to secure the alignment and acquiescence of social media users with official discourses and policies, against the backdrop of ongoing propaganda offensives on social media. Drawing on the concept of strategic narratives developed by international relations scholars, the chapter examines how the circulation of subtitled media content provides Chinese netizens with sense-making devices that facilitate the negotiation and forging of shared meanings about their country’s place on the international scene, ultimately contributing to the entrenchment of digital nationalism. Analysis of the body of danmu (bullet comments) posted by viewers of the vlog chosen as a case study reveals that the parochialism of Chinese social media platforms like Bilibili allows political elites to capitalize on mundane affectivity, whether genuine or confected, in order to promote allegiance to official strategic narratives without the need for deliberation in the digital public sphere.