Mistranslation as disinformation: COVID-19, Global Imaginaries, and Self-Serving Cosmopolitanism

Sheng Zou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article delves into the politics of the U.S.-China blame-game regarding COVID-19’s origin, particularly Chinese disinformation narratives attributing the virus’s root to the United States. The blame-game is symptomatic of contradictory global imaginaries circulated within distinct geopolitical spaces. This article approaches Chinese disinformation narratives as transnational and intertextual constructs, which involve the practices of (mis)translating and referencing foreign source texts to paradoxically delegitimate the foreign, especially Western, Other; they reinforce what I call self-serving cosmopolitanism, a narcissistic and locally conditioned sense of global consciousness that is oriented towards the consolidation of self-identity and pride. It is my contention that, to combat global disinformation about COVID-19, we should foreground the politics of translation, enhance cross-cultural sensibility, and most importantly, mobilize a kind of counter-politics against the xenophobic nationalism that disinformation narratives often parasitize. Cultural scholars with comparative perspectives are well positioned to take the initiative in revealing the structural issues at play within a global context and in promoting genuine cosmopolitan openness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-533
Number of pages11
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • disinformation
  • China-U.S. relations
  • politics of translation
  • cosmopolitanism
  • nationalism


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