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6. Construction of nationalism and political legitimacy through rhetoric of the anti-SARS campaign: A fantasy theme analysis

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Abstract

Employing Ernest Bormann’s (1972) fantasy theme analysis methodology, this chapter examines selected rhetorical texts and symbolic actions in the coverage of China’s anti-SARS campaign. Fantasy themes of character, action, and setting are identified and analyzed. The study finds that through the positive portrayal of national leaders and the heroic acts of medical workers, a renewed sense of nationalism was constructed, characterized by patriotism and sacrifice for the Party and country. The anti-SARS rhetoric nationwide also provided moral legitimacy for the new leadership in the time of political transition. The rhetorical vision created through fantasy themes promoted a unified national spirit and reinforced the traditional Chinese cultural value of collectivism.

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