The impact of China’s biopolitical approach to Covid-19 on pets

Thomas Whyke, Joaquin Lopez Mugica, Sadia Jamil, Aiqing Wang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Using the frameworks of biopower and uses and gratification theory, this article examines the treatment of pets in China during the COVID-19 outbreak and the role of social media in fulfilling users’ social needs by facilitating discussions on associated animal welfare issues and mobilizing animal advocates to take action. The analysis focuses on how social media comments on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, have influenced public discourse surrounding the biopolitical governance of animals emphasized by the zero-COVID policy, which has helped maintain a strong sense of national consciousness in post-socialist China. The study centres on an isolated case of the killing of a corgi by a health worker in Shanghai and how it was perceived on social media. The findings suggest that much of the animosity demonstrated on Weibo towards the killing is centred around biopower, or the biopolitical governance of humans and animals that has more broadly prioritized human life over animal welfare in China’s approach to COVID-19. In this way, social media has played a crucial role in mobilizing animal advocates to take a more prominent role in the emergency management of pets. The study concludes that China should consider adopting a standard operating procedure for pet care and rescue that includes pets in its humans-first disaster response and relief measures to develop a better and healthier national consciousness, fulfil the social needs of its citizens who value animal welfare, and strengthen its sense of national consciousness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-127
Number of pages35
JournalAsian Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2023


  • COVID-19
  • China
  • animal welfare
  • emergency management
  • biopower

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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