Story at a glance:

  • Zhang Wenhong is a top infectious disease expert in China and led Shanghai’s expert COVID-19 panel.
  • Zhang offers candid and frank advice on the pandemic.
  • Just like Fauci, Zhang has become one the best-known and most-respected voices in China’s fight against the pandemic.

Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden's chief medical adviser, but Zhang WenHong is his Chinese equivalent -- offering candid advice and becoming one of the most renowned figures in China’s fight against the pandemic, The Guardian reports.

“You’re bored to death at home, so the virus will be bored to death, too,” Zhang said. “Stay at home for two weeks … then we’ll be an inch closer to success.”


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Zhang speaks in a distinct Shanghainese accent, a characteristic that has become somewhat of his trademark as he offers frank and candid advice in the pandemic, The New York Times reports. 

Zhang also led Shanghai's expert panel on COVID-19. Shanghai is a metropolis much like Fauci’s hometown of New York City. China has been able to keep COVID-19 cases relatively low since the initial outbreak in 2020. On Monday, Shanghai reported five new cases of COVID-19

Like Fauci, Zhang brings a familiar and streetwise voice to the situation, with some residents calling him “Daddy Zhang.”

Zhang’s no-nonsense and deliverable message has gone viral on Shanghai’s online portals, which reaches about 25 million people, and state news media in Beijing broadcasts his statements.

The way that Zhang and Fauci communicate to the public is seen by many as a refreshing change of pace, analysts say, according to The Guardian. Zhang’s quick-talking, city mannerisms evoke familiarity rather than authority, thus making his advisories more common sense and easy to understand.

“We don’t often see such a technocrat speak to the public in this way in China,” Prof. Zhengming Chen of Oxford University told The Guardian. “It’s not easy to be so frank these days, but Zhang understands that as an expert he has the obligation to speak common sense and to communicate with the general public in plain language.”

“He fits neatly into the Chinese public’s expectation of a traditional intelligentsia,” Yanzhong Huang at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York told The Guardian. “He’s done some important work in public health, but he became famous largely by being himself and telling the truth.”

“It’s also a reminder to the authorities in Beijing that in order to fully persuade your public, you have to go back to the basics,” Huang said.

Just like Fauci, Zhang also faces criticism from those who question his position as a doctor. One allegation claimed that he plagiarized his doctoral thesis at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

So far, there is no evidence that Zhang cheated while he was in college, The South China Morning Post reported.


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Published on Sep 13, 2021