The Chinese Government’s Forgettable COVID Slogans

The Chinese government has been big on slogans for quite a while, and when it goes all out, you see those things everywhere. Perhaps it is starting to feel like the “era of slogans” is over, but these red banners no longer feel as effective as they once did.

I noticed this one the other day next to a bus stop here in Shanghai:

Forgettable COVID slogans

It’s hard to translate (I know, the second one is laughably bad), but it would be something like this:

(Jiānchí “fángyì sān jiàn tào”, “fánghù wǔ háiyào”)
Persist in the “set of three virus preventions” and the “five protective ‘still gotta'”

When I asked Chinese friends and co-workers about the slogan, no one could name the “set of three virus preventions” or the “still gotta” things you’re supposed to do, but they could guess.

When I asked about the effectiveness of such a slogan, I got a very noncommittal, “well, it rhymes….”

防疫三件套 (fángyì sān jiàn tào)

I found these on a government website:


The word 套 means “set.” The idea is that these three measures form a core set.

  1. 佩戴口罩 [wear a face mask]
  2. 社交距离 [social distancing]
  3. 个人卫生 [personal hygiene]

(Kind of funny that they used the WeChat app icon for #2!)

防护五还要 (fánghù wǔ háiyào)

I found these on the same government website:


So the idea behind the 还要s is that you still need to do these things (even though you’ve been doing them for almost two years now).

Here’s the Chinese text, to which I’ll add a few simple notes:

  1. 口罩还要继续戴 [masks]
  2. 社交距离还要留 [social distancing]
  3. 咳嗽喷嚏还要遮 [cover mouth when coughing or sneezing]
  4. 双手还要经常洗 [wash hands]
  5. 窗户还要尽量开 [open windows]

Note that each line always uses the exact same number of characters. That’s a slogan thing.

Masks and Social Distancing

I’ve noticed in Shanghai that people are very good about wearing masks, but not so good about social distancing. Clearly the government is trying to enforce both of these (both of these appear in both lists above), with social distancing officially encouraged by marks for where to stand when waiting in line, etc., but these social distancing queues seem largely ignored, with a few exceptions.

It definitely feels like the government’s best tool for enforcing social distancing is simply forcibly shutting down social activities, such as classes, meetings, etc. (Church services have once again been canceled in Shanghai, since last week.)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

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