Role allocation: activation and passivation

Table 2.21 shows that the Chinese and French social actors are the only participants that are allocated an active role, at a rate of 45% and 5%, respectively, compared to the others, which are all activated at a rate of 0%. Chinese social actors are activated through participation, circumstantialisation and possessivation at a frequency of 20%, 0%, and 25%, respectively. In the analysis of passivation, the Chinese actors are allocated a passive role at a rate of 0% while the United States, France, Germany, and Europe are beneficialised at frequencies of 10%, 10%, 5%, and 5%, respectively.

In the following examples, the Chinese social actors are depicted to be active participants through participation, i.e. in the subject position in a clause, when it comes to threatening the others with war or competing with the others on business:

  • 1. China readies for showdown on rare metals F8C
  • 2. How China wants to nibble at Airbus and Boeing FI 1C
  • 3. Automobile: China kicks otf F17C
  • 4. Why China is playing the role of the saviour of the eurozone F20C

The underlined verb ‘readies’ (F8C) is an action verb that describes what the subject, i.e. China, of the clauses will undertake. The portrayal of China as the active participant of the action puts the emphasis on Chinese agency, i.e. it is prepared to confront the others over precious metals. Chinese social actors are also depicted as active participants involved in questionable business practices through the use of hyperbole ‘nibble at’ on the grammatical object of Western high-tech companies (Airbus and Boeing).

Table 2.21 Activation/passivation in frequency and percentage (L’Express)

Representational category: activation vs passivation

Social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

France

UK

Germany

Europe

West

Japan

Africa

1 Activation

Participation

No.

4

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

20

0

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

Circumstantialisation

No.

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Possessivation

No.

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

25

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2 Passivation

Subjection

No.

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Beneficialisation

No.

0

2

2

0

1

1

0

0

0

%

0

10

10

0

5

5

0

0

0

In addition, the activation of the Chinese actor is realised through the use of the postmodification of nominalisation, as shown in the following examples:

  • 1. Shanghai, the laboratory of the world F4C
  • 2. The servility of France makes us an accomplice of the Chinese regime F10C
  • 3. Economic news: China master of the world in 10 years? F14C
  • 4. China, the top source of counterfeits in France F15C
  • 5. Why China is playing the role of the saviour of the eurozone F20C

In the above examples, the use of the preposition ‘of’ after the nouns ‘servility’ (F10C) and ‘source’ (F15C) draws attention to the causal relation between China’s agency and its adverse impact on France. By giving prominence to the patient (France) rather than the agent (China), the agent disappears whereas the semantically subordinate role of France becomes the main focus of the clauses. The reader may thus already form a negative social cognition of the depicted victimiser and develop sympathies for the victim before they move on to the lead text or main article under the headlines.

 
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