Analysis of British perspective (The Economist)

Macro-rules

Table 2A.2 in the Appendix shows the prevailing topics of the 20 headlines about China in the year 2010 based on Van Dijk’s macro-rules to yield the macro-structure. There are 19 topics (95%) of the 20 headlines that are derived from the application of the ‘generalisation’ macro-rule, followed by one (5%) from ‘deletion’.

The top three prevailing topics, from the British perspective, are found to be issues related to global expansion (five headlines: B14C, B17C, B18C, B19C, and B20C), China's growth modeI (five headlines: B2C, B5C, B8C, В10C, and

B16C), and international trade and currency (four headlines: В 1C, B6C, B7C, and B15C). There are also other topics that emerged at a lower frequency, including the new world order (two headlines: В12C and В13C), Europe-China bilateral relations (one headline: B3C), China-US bilateral relations (one headline: B9C) and workers’ rights (one headline: B11C). For purposes of simplicity, Europe-China bilateral relations and China-US bilateral relations are merged into one single overarching generic topic; in other words, there are two headlines that express the topic bilateral relations.

Inclusion and exclusion

Compared to Time analysed in the previous section, in which continental European countries were omitted altogether from the group of eight non- Chinese actors, Europe and Germany are featured among the nine non- Chinese actors represented in The Economist. There are nine non-Chinese actors and they are the US, the UK, Germany, Europe, India, Japan, North Korea, the West, and the world. Table 2.9 and Table 2.10 show the frequency distribution of inclusion and exclusion of agent and non-agent social actors, respectively.

Table 2.9 shows that the Chinese social actor is included as an agent actor at a frequency of 75%, by far the highest among all the social actors; it is represented 7.5 times more often than the next two actors, the US and North Korea, which are included at 10% each; and 15-fold more frequently than Europe, India, and Japan, which are included at a frequency of 5% each. The agency of the UK, Germany, the West, and the world, however, is included at a frequency of 0%. Regarding the exclusion of actors in the headlines, only the American and Chinese agents are excluded at 10% and 5%, respectively. The other actors are excluded at a frequency of 0%. The following is an example of the exclusion of Chinese and American actor agency in the topic

Table2.9 Inclusion/exclusion of main agent actors in frequency and percentage (The Economist)

Representational

categories

Agent social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

Germany

Europe

India

Japan

N.

Korea

West

World

Inclusion

No.

15

2

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

0

%

75

10

0

0

5

5

5

0

0

0

Exclusion

No.

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

%

5

10

0

0

0

0

0

10

0

0

Total

80

20

0

0

5

5

5

10

0

0

Trade conflict in Western newsmagazines 49 Table 2.10 Exclusion of agent social actors (The Economist)

Representational category: exclusion

Agent social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

Germany

Euro

pe Indi

a Japan

N.

Korea

West

World

1 Backgrounding

No.

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

%

5

10

0

0

0

0

0

10

0

0

2 Suppression

No.

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

international trade and currency (B15C) and another example of the exclusion of American agency in the topic geopolitical tensions (B4C):

  • 1. The global economy: How to stop the currency war B15C
  • 2. Geopolitics: Facing up to China B4C

Since the frequency of the inclusion and exclusion of the Chinese and American agents is the highest across the 20 sampled headlines, they are also attributed with representational categories more often than the other non- Chinese actors. Specifically, their appearance in the headlines is readily recognisable to the readers of the newsmagazine.

Table 2.10 shows that the Chinese (5%), American (10%), and North Korean (10%) social actors are backgrounded, meaning that traces of these actors can be found in the headlines although they appear in the lead and main texts that follow. In order to realise backgrounding or less radical exclusion (B15C), The Economist newsmagazine relies on the use of the adverb ‘how’, which functions as a grammatical subject alleviating the need for explicit references to the agents that are causing the currency war.

1. The global economy: How to stop the currency war B15C

This has the effect of rendering uncertainty in the reader of the identity of the culprit(s) of the conflict over the valuation of currencies, since it can be the Chinese or any of the non-Chinese participants, or even the international community at large. Furthermore, the adverb puts the focus onto itself, distancing the readers away from the unidentified agents of the trade dispute and conjuring up an image of an aggravating trade crisis that could exert an adverse impact on the global economy, in which the rest of the trading partners are affected.

Another strategy that The Economist uses to background agency is through the use of the gerund form of the verb ‘face’ at the beginning of the clause (B4C). ‘Facing’ thus functions as a noun and circumvents the need to identify the agency of the social actor. Furthermore, the use of the phrasal verb ‘face up to’ means that the readers, along with the backgrounded American agent actor, must accept the fact that a difficult situation exists with regard to China. This semantic strategy has the effect of targeting the message directly at the readers, rendering them more sympathetic to the action of the backgrounded American actor against that of the Chinese in issues related to geopolitics.

1. Geopolitics: Facing up to China B4C

Now that the process of inclusion and exclusion of agent social actors has been examined, Table 2.11 shows the frequency distribution of the key nonagent social actors.

Table 2.11 shows that the Chinese non-agent actor is included (20%) four times as much as the world actors, which are included at 5%, while the rest of the non-Chinese actors are included at a rate of 0%. This pattern means that the Chinese actors have a higher propensity of being at the receiving end of an activity in the headlines. The following are some examples of the included Chinese non-agent actors:

  • 1. Europe and an inscrutable China B3C
  • 2. China, America and the yuan: Over to you, China B7C
  • 3. China’s economy: Defanging China’s growth В10C
  • 4. Japan as number three: Watching China whizz by B13C

When the focus shifts to the process of exclusion, however, Table 2.11 shows that the Chinese, North Korean, and Indian non-agent actors are represented at a rate of 0% each, while the non-agency of the American, British, German, European, Japanese, Western, and the rest of the world is represented at 25%, 5%, 10%, 25%, 25%, 10%, and 5%, respectively. In other words, the exclusion pattern appears to reveal the formation of two groups: one comprising

Table 2.11 Inclusion/exclusion of non-agent actors in frequency and percentage (The Economist)

Representational

categories

Non-agent social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

Germany

Europe

India

Japan

N.

Korea

West

World

Inclusion

No.

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

%

20

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

Exclusion

No.

0

5

1

2

5

0

5

0

2

1

%

0

25

5

10

25

0

25

0

10

5

Total

20

25

5

10

25

0

25

0

10

10

China, North Korea, and India, and another comprising participants from the US, the UK, Germany, Europe, Japan, North Korea, the West, and rest of the world.

However, given that the non-agency of India is included at 0% whereas that of China is included at 20%, as aforementioned, it could be argued that The Economist categorises the participants into two main groups: China versus all the other participants. This is an instance of Van Dijk’s dichotomy of in- and out-groups.

Table 2.12 shows that The Economist has the tendency to background the non-agency of the US, the UK, Germany, Europe, Japan, the West, and rest of the world. This has the effect of reducing explicit references to the non-agents in association with the activity mentioned in the headlines. Their traces, however, can still be found in the headlines.

The following are some examples of the backgrounded non-agent American, European, and Japanese actors in the topic related to China’s global expansion (B17C, B18C, B19C, B20C):

  • 1. Chinese acquisitions: China buys up the world B17C
  • 2. Chinese takeovers: Being eaten by the dragon B18C
  • 3. Global powers: The dangers of a rising China B19C
  • 4. China’s place in the world: Friends, or else B20C

There are two main strategies that The Economist newsmagazine employs to background the American, European, and Japanese non-agents: the use of (i) mass nouns ‘the world’ (B17C), (ii) passive agent deletion (B18C), as well as (iii) count nouns ‘dangers’ and ‘friends’ (B19C, B20C). The obfuscation of the patients undergoing China’s acquisition and takeover puts the focus on the phrasal verb ‘buys up’ (B17C) and the verb expressed in the passive voice ‘being eaten’ (B18C), respectively. Both headlines conjure up an image of an outbound China that is buying something in large quantities or all that is available, at the expense of the others. The menace posed by China’s global expansion is further heightened through the use of (i) the count noun ‘dangers’

Table 2.12 Exclusion of non-agent social actors (The Economist)

Representational category: exclusion

Non-agent social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

Germany

Europe

India

Japan

N.

Korea

West

World

1 Backgrounding

No.

0

5

1

2

5

0

5

0

2

1

%

0

25

5

10

25

0

25

0

10

5

2 Suppression

No.

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

caused by a China vying for global power and (ii) the phrase ‘friends, or else’ that warns what will happen if China does not get what it wants in the world.

The following is an example of the exclusion of American, European, German, and Japanese non-agency in the topic international trade and currency (B1C):

1. China’s export prospects: Fear of the dragon В1C

As В 1C shows, The Economist first relies on the nominalisation of ‘fear’, which is a word that can be a noun or a verb, to background the non-agency of the American actor through the post-modifying phrase ‘of’. This has the effect of shifting the focus onto China, which is represented as a dragon that has overwhelmed the backgrounded non-agent(s) with its exports. In addition, the obfuscation of the patient and the impersonalisation of China as a dragon have the result of directing the message at the readers, drawing them closer to the plight of the patient undergoing the action. As Olderr (2017) puts forth, while dragons are considered bringers of luck and wealth in the East, they represent evil, sin, and gluttony and are beasts to be feared in the West. There is another observation that emerges: the non-agency of the British participant is excluded at a frequency of 5% in B12C.

 
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