Unpacking government social media messaging strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic in China

Yiran Li, Yanto Chandra*, Yingying Fan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


A core aspect of agile governance is effectively managing communications between a government and its citizens. However, doing so during an emergency—particularly a pandemic—is often complex and challenging. In this article, we examine how various levels of the Chinese government (central, provincial, and municipal) communicated with the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Analyzing government social media posts during the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan (“text as data”), we conduct topic modeling analysis and identify four strategies that characterize Chinese governments’ responses to a variety of issues at the ground level, which we label instructing information, adjusting information, advocacy, and bolstering. The results show that local government agencies predominantly used the first two strategies, whereas the central government mainly relied on the last two. These strategies explain how various levels of government engaged in agile governance through their communication with citizens, highlight the coordination and control work undertaken by governments at all levels, and demonstrate how these methods shielded the central government from blame for the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-672
Number of pages22
JournalPolicy and Internet
Issue number3
Early online date27 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Public Administration

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID‐19
  • government posts
  • response strategy
  • situational crisis communication theory
  • social media
  • COVID-19


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