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Zhong Nanshan

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Zhōng Nánshān | 钟南山

Zhong Nanshan (China News Weekly)

Zhong Nanshan (b. 1936) is a pulmonologist who gained international fame during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Zhong is one of the leading advisors in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, Zhong received the Order of the Republic, currently the highest honor in the People's Republic of China.

Zhong studied medicine in China and the United Kingdom. In early 2003, Zhong was one of the first medical experts in China to identify the SARS outbreak. He was known for his professionalism and outspokenness during the disease management, at times openly questioning the government’s official account. Zhong became a household name and a hero in the eyes of the Chinese public.

In early 2020, when the novel coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, Zhong visited the city to evaluate the situation. He later gave an interview stating that human-to-human transmission had already occurred, directly contradicting the Wuhan government. Zhong applauded Dr. Li Wenliang, a young doctor in Wuhan who was among the first to sound the alarm of the disease outbreak. Zhong was one of the experts who compiled COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment protocol, recommending people to isolate and wear masks.

Zhong has also made controversial claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. In late February 2020, he raised the idea during a press conference that coronavirus may not have originated in China. His statement has since been widely used to support conspiracy theories such that the disease was brought to China by American soldiers.

Zhong’s promotion of traditional Chinese medicine and alleged partnership with various healthcare companies have also called into question his professionalism. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he has repeatedly said that Lianhua Qingwen, a capsule made from traditional Chinese herbs, was effective in treating COVID-19, a claim disputed by some medical experts. Zhong’s claim sent the manufacturer's stock price soaring. Since he holds business partnership with the manufacturer of the drug, his claims prompted many to raise conflict of interest concerns. In October 2020, Zhong was quoted promoting Ban Lan Gen, another popular Chinese herbal remedy in treating COVID-19. Zhong later said he was misquoted. More allegations have since surfaced regarding Zhong’s partnerships with various health products, earning him nicknames like Embezzling Zhong (Zhōng Bǎo sīnáng 钟饱私囊) and Beasts Beat Nanshan (Shòu bǐ Nánshān 兽比南山). These allegations have often met with censorship, in some cases resulting in the stories being deleted and the bloggers banned.

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