Shaping the referents which can serve as opinion leaders into strong symbols

The goal of our communication is to project to the international community a positive, open, modernized and civilized contemporary Chinese society. In order to communicate such a national image, it is essential that we choose the appropriate symbols to convey the appropriate meanings. The same kind of meaning (the signified) can be expressed via different forms (the signifiers). The key issue is that the system of forms (the system of signifiers) is rich and diverse and that only by selecting those forms of symbols (the signifiers) that are influential and can serve as opinion leaders can we achieve the optimum communication effect. It is not sufficient to choose those events and individuals that are influential only domestically; it is more appropriate if we choose those events and individuals who themselves boast very high international recognition and have considerable potential for international communication. For instance, Jiao Yulu and Kong Fansen are well known in China but they do not enjoy high recognition and communication impact in the international context. Therefore, only when we choose those events and individuals which can serve as opinion leaders in the international communication can we possibly achieve the desired communication impact. Those events and individuals whose influence is confined only within their native country are impossible to become strong symbols in international communication.

The present era of global communication is an era of consumerism in which the added value created by symbols constitutes a new source for the accumulation of the capital of a society. Some scholars are worried that, in the post-modern context, the stripping of the symbols has reached such an extent that all that is left has been reduced to a carnival of signifiers. However, in our real-world life, our value judgment, the culture of our society and even our consumer behavior are all inseparable from the underlying meanings ascribed to the symbols, especially those strong symbols which have long been playing an important role of cultivating values and constructing subjectivity in the international communication.


1 Sui Yan, “On the Transfer of Meaning in Connotateurs,” in International Journalism

Community, 2008, 7.

2 Sui Yan, “The Tricks of Symbolic Communication,” in Television Studies, (Beijing:

Communication University of China, 2008), Issue 2.

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