Role allocation: activation and passivation

Table 2.13 shows that the Chinese social actors are activated the most frequently at 50%, compared to the non-Chinese social actors. Among the non-Chinese social actors, the American, European, Indian, and Japanese participants are activated at 10%, 5%, 5%, and 5%, respectively. Table 2.13 shows that the Chinese social actors are activated through participation, circumstantialisation, and possessivation at a frequency of 30%, 5%, and 15%, respectively; the American, European, Indian, and Japanese actors are activated through participation at 10%; 5%, 5%, and 5%, respectively.

In the following examples with the topic global expansion, the Chinese social actors are activated through participation, i.e. assuming the semantic role of the main participant followed by the main verb used in a clause.

  • 1. The yuan goes global: A Mao in every pocket B14C
  • 2. Chinese acquisitions: China buys up the world В17C

The underlined verbs ‘goes’ and ‘buys up’ are action verbs that describe what the subject of the clauses is doing. In B14C, for instance, the verb ‘goes’ puts the focus on the internationalisation of the Chinese currency, while the phrasal verb ‘buys up’ in B17C describes a China that is buying something as much as it can around the world. These representations suggest a China that is in the process of expanding globally by means of its currency and acquisitions.

Table 2.13 Activation/passivation in frequency and percentage (The Economist)

Representational category: activation vs passivation

Social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

Germany

Europe

India

Japan

N. Korea

West

World

1 Activation

Participation

No.

6

2

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

0

%

30

10

0

0

5

5

5

0

0

0

Circumstantialisation

No.

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessivation

No.

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2 Passivation

Subjection

No.

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

%

20

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

Beneficialisation

No.

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

%

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

0

0

0

The activation of the Chinese actors through circumstantialisation is realised through the use of the preposition ‘by’ as shown in the headline В18C, resulting in the shift of focus onto the action undertaken by China’s agency. The effect is further intensified by hyperbole, ‘being eaten by’ to represent the acquisitions made by the Chinese. As Van Dijk (2006, p. 737) explains, hyperbole is one of the categories of ideological discourse analysis that relies on semantic rhetorical devices to enhance the meaning of a discourse, particularly when used within the overall strategy of positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation.

1. Chinese takeovers: Being eaten by the dragon B18C

In addition, the activation of the Chinese actor is realised by postmodifying the nouns ‘fear’ (B1C), ‘contest’ (B12C), and ‘dangers’ (B19C) with the preposition ‘of’, and has the effect of drawing attention to the causal relationship between China’s agency and its impact on the others. By allocating the Chinese actors a dynamic role through their actions of ‘export prospects’, ‘contest’, and ‘rising China’, the reader will be dissociated from the Chinese actors due to the threat they are portrayed as posing. Here are the three examples:

  • 1. China’s export prospects: Fear of the dragon В1C
  • 2. China and India: Contest of the century B12C
  • 3. Global power: The dangers of a rising China В19C

In the analysis of passivation, the Chinese and the world are allocated passive roles through subjection at a frequency of 20% and 5%, respectively, while the Japanese are beneficialised from the action at 5%. The US, the UK, Germany, Europe, India, North Korea, and the West are passivated at 0% each. Chinese social actors, for instance, are passivated through subjection, i.e. in the object position of a clause, as showm in the following headlines:

  • 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 В13C

In B3C and B7C, for instance, China is depicted as an object subjected to an action initiated by Europe and America, respectively, by using the adjective ‘inscrutable’ and the phrase ‘over to you’. The adjective ‘inscrutable’, w'hich comes from the root word ‘to scrutinise’, describes a China that is impossible for Europe to fathom and to understand; and the phrase ‘over to you’ puts the focus onto China, which is depicted to be the recipient of the action exerted by the United States and that China should now act with regard to the Chinese currency.

While China is subjected to the action ‘watching’ in В13C, Japan assumes the dynamic role of looking at China overtaking itself. However, the description of Japan becoming number three (the world’s third-largest economy) and watching itself being overtaken by China’s rapidly growing economy, implied by the verb ‘whizz by’, conjures up an image of a passivated Japan at the receiving end of the action ‘overtaken’. This passivation of Japan is realised through beneficialisation since Japan benefits from the action negatively.

Functionalisation, identification and appraisement

Table 2.14 shows that the Chinese actors are the only ones categorised. They are functionalised at 0%, identified at 15%, and appraised at 55%. None of the non-Chinese actors are categorised in this representation category.

The process of identification is realised by foregrounding the aspects of the Chinese actors that are more or less unchangeable, as shown in the following examples:

  • 1. China’s financial system: Red mist B5C
  • 2. China’s labour market: The next China В11C
  • 3. The yuan goes global: A Mao in every pocket В14C

B5C, for instance, shows that the financial system of the Chinese social actors is represented as being associated with intransparency through lexical choice, such as ‘red mist’, to imply the incomprehensible nature of China’s financial system. At the same time, it is also to be highlighted that ‘red mist’ is an informal phrase in British English that is used in reference to a person’s judgement being clouded by anger, thus emphasising the deep dissatisfaction of the others over China’s financial system.

Further, the evocation of China’s political system with the colour ‘red’ to describe its financial system may have the effect of widening the distance between the Chinese social actors and the readers of The Economist magazine, which is known to adopt an editorial stance of economic liberalism supporting free trade and globalisation. As Strukov (2014, para. 1) puts forth, red’s association with communism is ‘so strong that it became a byword in the West’ to denote ‘Soviet threat’ during the Cold War. In other words, such representations conjure up an image of threat and danger.

For B14C, The Economist relies on humour to associate the Chinese currency with communism by conjuring up an image of a miniaturised Chairman Mao in a pocket, and also a pun with Mao and the pocket as a part of clothing (since Mao is also the term used to describe the style of Chinese suit famously worn by Mao). The following are the examples showing the appraisement of the Chinese social actors:

  • 1. China’s export prospects: Fear of the dragon B1C
  • 2. China’s economy: Not just another fake B2C

56 Damien Ng

Table 2.14 Functionalisation/identification/appraisement in frequency and percentage (The Economist)

Representational category: functionalisation vs identification vs appraisement

Social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

Germany

Europe

India

Japan

N. Korea

West

World

1 Functionalisation

No.

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2 Identification

No.

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3 Appraisement

No.

11

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

55

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

  • 3. China’s financial system: Red mist B5C
  • 4. The China Model: The Beijing consensus is to keep quiet B8C
  • 5. China’s economy: Defaneing China’s growth В1 ОС
  • 6. The yuan goes global: A Mao in every pocket B14C
  • 7. Dependance on China: The indispensable economy B16C
  • 8. Global power: The dangers of a rising China B19C

The analysis of appraisement shows that China’s growing economy (B1C, B2C, В IOC, B16C, and B19C) is depicted to be frightening but absolutely necessary, through the evaluative nouns ‘fear’, ‘fake’, ‘dangers’; the evaluative verb ‘defanging’, as well as the evaluative adjective ‘indispensable’. Such nouns, verbs, and adjectives carry a particular semantic meaning that conveys the writers’ attitude toward the social action or actors in the discourse. The noun ‘mist’, for instance, used in conjunction with ‘red’ in B5C conjures up an image of a financial system that is shrouded in secrecy and which is not based on free-market principles. The notion of threat posed by China is further intensified through the use of the evaluative verb ‘to defang’ (B10C), which puts the emphasis on the direct object that is the recipient of the action of the transitive verb ‘to defang’, i.e. the burden or harm caused by China’s economic growth.

In addition, the relationship between China and the other countries, such as the United States, Europe, and India, has also been appraised to be sub- optimal. By using the evaluative adjective ‘inscrutable’ and the phrases ‘not exactly eye to eye’ and ‘contest of the century’, China is depicted to be completely at odds with the other major regions in the world. The examples are as follows:

  • 1. Europe and an inscrutable China B3C
  • 2. China and USA: Not exactly eve to eve B9C
  • 3. China and India: Contest of the century B12C
 
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