Fans disappointed as Wuhan Diary's overseas publication 'gives ammunition to antagonist forces'

By Cao Siqi and Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/10 18:33:40

Fans disappointed as Wuhan Diary’s overseas publication ‘gives ammunition to antagonist forces’

Photo: screenshot of HarperCollins Publishers website

Wuhan-based author Fang Fang, who made a splash by recording the daily lives of local residents during city lockdown and her own reflections on the coronavirus crisis, has drawn a flood of criticism online, many of it from her loyal readers, as news surfaced that her 60-episode diary installments are soon to be published overseas in English and German

Many people say the publication, whether it was for money or reputation, will hand the West a "sword," especially those media outlets and politicians dedicated to defaming China, with which to "kill" the country's and its people's efforts and suffering in fighting the health crisis over the past three months.   

Many of these accusations came from her former readers, who have had a change of heart in the wake of the suspicious level of fanfare the West has given her. They said they had supported Fang Fang even when she was questioned for only exposing the dark side of the epidemic-stricken city in her diary, but this time, the overseas publication left them feeling bitter. 

"Fang Fang let us down," some said. 

Fang Fang Photo: File

Harsh response

The controversial writer's Wuhan Diary is now on pre-sale on Amazon and is expected to be published on August 18 by HarperCollins Publishers, the second-largest consumer book publisher in the world headquartered in New York. 

A German version is also expected to be published by Hoffmann und Campe on June 4, according to, a German book search platform. Many netizens suspected that the date of publication, which also marks a political disturbance between spring and summer in 1989, showed its ulterior motives. 

The English edition says the diary "courageously speaks out against social injustice, corruption, abuse, and the systemic political problems which impeded the response to the epidemic," while the German version says the diary is an astonishing "testimony" and also a "warning document" on China. 

Coming at a time when the US has been trying to shift blame over its inability to combat the outbreak onto China and has constantly slandered China's efforts in dealing with the pandemic, many readers slammed her diary for using the terms of  "friends," "hear from," "tell me," "my doctor friends" and "maybe" hundreds of times, which means most of her articles were based on hearsay, could not show the real situation in Wuhan and of course could not be a "first-hand source" for the outside to know what was really happening in the city. 

Fang Fang has said on her Sina Weibo account that the reason why she started to write was because at the very beginning, she was stuck at home and someone contacted her to write something, so she decided to put posts up on Weibo. Many thus suspected that publishing it overseas in such a short time might have been planned and it might have been her intention to seek profit or boost her reputation through the sensational writing.

One netizen said he has applied for a Guinness World Record for Fang Fang's diary as "the fastest Chinese literary work to go from completion to being translated and published." The netizen posted a reply from the record management office, saying that the application has been accepted and it will take 12 weeks to process. The netizen joked that the time is even longer than the publication. 

Facing the backlash online, Fang Fang responded on her Sina Weibo on Thursday afternoon, saying, "I believe that a strong nation will not collapse because of the publication of a book, and a confident government will not blame a writer for a book. How people live in 2020 and beyond depends more on the way the government and other nations treat the novel coronavirus than this little diary."

This response was taken from an article titled "How hard it is to support Fang Fang as always" written by one of her readers. She thanked the reader and claimed that it was important for people to possess "common sense."

She also said on her WeChat post on Thursday that "it's normal for Chinese writers to release their publications overseas… what surprised me was why so many publishing houses in China are so afraid of far-left forces, as they had intended to publish my diary, but after those far-left forces hyped up the matter, no one wanted to publish it anymore," according to a post shared with the Global Times by a source close to Fang Fang. 

"The most important thing is not where it is published, but what I wrote," read the post, noting that if no one wants to publish it in China, "why can't I release this book overseas?"

In response to netizens' reports to local authorities demanding an investigation into whether Fang Fang has had contact with anti-China forces, she replied on Weibo with a joke, saying that "this made me laugh too much to sleep. I will leave it as a commemoration."  

The Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin has commented on the diary, saying, "The diary will not be a normal exchange of documentary literature. It will be captured by international politics. It is quite possible that in the coming storm, the Chinese people, including those who have supported Fang Fang, will pay for her fame in the West. Of course, China is a powerful country and will not be affected because of the diary's publication. It is hoped that Fang Fang will be more philosophical in the face of changing public attitudes, including criticism and questioning." 

Fang Fang responded Friday morning saying that the comment is "vulgar" and "gloomy," and "a real writer will not appreciate such condescending tolerance."

Hu later replied, saying that Chinese society needs to tolerate the existence of such a diary and a powerful country will not collapse because of it.  Meanwhile, the Chinese public also has the right to express their discontent, as a result of diversity. 

"Many people's attitudes and feelings toward the diary will change, especially after seeing the epidemic almost engulf Europe and the US and lead to a much more serious humanitarian disaster, and gaining a greater understanding of the whole process of fighting the epidemic in Wuhan," he wrote. 

Change of heart

Fang Fang has gained large numbers of loyal readers for her diary, as many people thanked her for uncovering the untold suffering that Wuhan residents have gone through during the lockdown period. Some scholars have vowed to recommend her for this year's Nobel Prize for Peace.  

Despite accusations of her diary being biased and causing social divergence, she still retains a large proportion of fans who supported her for what they said speaking out for people on the lower rungs of the social ladder. 

However, following the scheduled publication, many began to have a change of heart. 

A message left on Fang Fang's Weibo by one of her previous fans has garnered over 80,000 likes. The netizen, who claimed to be a surgeon from Hubei Province born in the 1990s, said he previously respected her but no longer did.     

"No matter how you write, how much you complain, how much you hate, it doesn't matter. Future mastery of the country depends on us, and you will be weeded out by time. How will history judge you? We will write it. The sword you handed to enemies today and the harm it brings to the Chinese people, we will return it to you," the netizen wrote. 

Local people in Wuhan have complicated feelings over her controversial diary, a loyal reader from Hubei said. 

Some people think that if it is true documentary literature, it should be like some writers from foreign magazines who make field trips for interviews, collect first-hand materials and do in-depth research, instead of coming up with materials based on hearsay. Or it's like a fiction such as The Plague, however, no matter what kind of form it is, the current Wuhan Diary has gone beyond her initial intention: to record and let people reflect on this outbreak, said the reader. 

"It has become new ammunition for propaganda forces overseas to criticize China's political system and hype up public opinion, which no longer pays attention to the diary's significance nor the outbreak itself," she noted. 

"Fang Fang is not a bad person. She is a remnant of a world of public opinion dominated by European and American ideologies," Lu Kewen, a veteran Chinese political observer, said on social media. 

She was a grave keeper deeply influenced by the thinking system of Europe and the US - a political philosophy that advocated the reduction of government control to a minimum, and she felt that she had an obligation to complete the building blocks in that ideological system, he said. "But now the system is fragile, and most young people in China scoff at it," he added, pointing to a series of failures in the West's approach to the pandemic. 

A loyal reader of Fang Fang's diary shared his change of mindset to the writer with the Global Times on Friday. "Does society need people like Fang Fang? I previously believed it did. Apart from media reports, her diary provides a different angle for us to look into people's lives, mindsets and stories at the bottom of social strata under the shadow of the health crisis," the reader said. 

However, it is inappropriate to publish this diary at this time, as many "facts" in the story have not been verified and a lot of the hearsay has not been investigated, he said. 

"I have been supporting her for a long time and now I feel bitter. I did not regret supporting her and also do not feel ashamed of this, but this time, she let me down," the reader said.   

Many people in China called for Fang Fang to abandon the publication or at least make a public statement that the introductions in English and German are not her original intention and go against her will. They hoped that Fang Fang could make some changes to the "false" facts in the diary and add more to display a whole picture. 

We defend her right to speak, and we also have the right to criticize her sharply. We believe that Chinese people are clear-sighted and can clearly understand what the correct position should be, netizens said.


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