Volume 22, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



In the context of the China-USA trade dispute, this study reports a discourse analysis of legitimation tactics used in the , a major English-language news outlet produced by the Communist Party of China (CPC). My analysis centres on a dataset of 65 commentaries between March 2018 and January 2020, and identifies the five key tactics at work: authorization, moralization, rationalization, hypothetical future, and integration. These tactics (and their sub-tactics) are deployed for delegitimating the US-initiated “America First” trade policy, and for legitimating the Chinese state’s position and countermeasures. Orienting to Western scholarship about the news media’s role as an “echo chamber” for State/political agendas, I compare the pattern of legitimation in the commentaries with the pattern previously found in an analysis of Chinese state white papers. This comparison highlights key similarities but also differences in terms of genre, language, and ideological coherence.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Beciu, Camelia, and Mirela Lazăr
    2022 “’We’ in the EU:(De) legitimizing power relations and status: The case of the 2019 European elections in Romania.” Journal of Language and Politics21(2): 300–319. 10.1075/jlp.21067.bec
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.21067.bec [Google Scholar]
  2. Bednarek, Monika
    2006 “Epistemological positioning and evidentiality in English news discourse: A text-driven approach.” Text & Talk26(6): 635–660. 10.1515/TEXT.2006.027
    https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2006.027 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bell, Allan
    1991The Language of News Media. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Berger, Peter, and Thomas Luckmann
    1966The Social Construction of Reality. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bernstein, B.
    1990Class, Codes and Control, Vol. IV: The Structuring of Pedagogic Discourse. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Boulianne, Shelley, Karolina Koc-Michalska, and Bruce Bimber
    2020 “Right-wing populism, social media and echo chambers in Western democracies.” New media & society22(4): 683–699. 10.1177/1461444819893983
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819893983 [Google Scholar]
  7. Carbaugh, Donal A.
    1988Talking American. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Chafe, Wallace L., and Johanna Nichols
    (eds.) 1986Evidentiality: The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Chen, Fu and Guofeng Wang
    2022 “A war or merely friction? Examining news reports on the current Sino-U.S. trade dispute in The New York Times and China Daily.” Critical Discourse Studies19(1): 1–18. 10.1080/17405904.2020.1844252
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2020.1844252 [Google Scholar]
  10. Chen, Lijuan, Danyang Zhang, Yingfei He, and Guoliang Zhang
    2020 “Transcultural political communication from the perspective of proximization theory: A comparative analysis on the corpuses of the Sino–US trade dispute.” Discourse & Communication14(4) : 341–361. 10.1177/1750481320910519
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1750481320910519 [Google Scholar]
  11. Cheng, Xi
    2021 “Legitimation strategies in discourse surrounding Sino-American trade friction: A case study of Chinese government white papers.” Discourse & Communication15(3) : 241–259. 10.1177/1750481321989837
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1750481321989837 [Google Scholar]
  12. Cinelli, Matteo, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Alessandro Galeazzi, Walter Quattrociocchi, and Michele Starnini
    2021 “The echo chamber effect on social media.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences118(9). 10.1073/pnas.2023301118
    https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023301118 [Google Scholar]
  13. De Certeau, Michel
    1984The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated bySteven Rendall. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Dubois, Elizabeth, and Grant Blank
    2018 “The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media.” Information, Communication & Society21(5): 729–745. 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1428656
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1428656 [Google Scholar]
  15. Enli, Gunn
    2017 “New media and politics.” Annals of the International Communication Association41(3–4): 220–227. 10.1080/23808985.2017.1392251
    https://doi.org/10.1080/23808985.2017.1392251 [Google Scholar]
  16. Garimella, Kiran, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Aristides Gionis, and Michael Mathioudakis
    2018 “Political Discourse on Social Media: Echo Chambers, Gatekeepers, and the Price of Bipartisanship.” InProceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference, pp.913–922. https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.01665. 10.1145/3178876.3186139
    https://doi.org/10.1145/3178876.3186139 [Google Scholar]
  17. Graham, Gordon
    2013White Papers for Dummies. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Guan, Tianru
    2018 “Framing the Boundary of Sino-Japanese Conflicts in China’s Communication Sphere: A Content Analysis of the News Coverage of Japan and Sino-Japanese Controversies by the People’s Daily between 2001 and 2015.” Journal of Chinese Political Science231: 603–618. 10.1007/s11366‑018‑9528‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11366-018-9528-9 [Google Scholar]
  19. Guo, Zhongshi, and Yu Huang
    2002 “Hybridized Discourse: Social Openness and Functions of English Media in Post-Mao China.” World Englishes21(2): 217–230. 10.1111/1467‑971X.00243
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-971X.00243 [Google Scholar]
  20. Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood
    1994An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Igwebuike, Ebuka Elias, and Ameh Dennis Akoh
    2022 “Self-legitimation and other-delegitimation in the internet radio speeches of the supreme leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra.” Critical Discourse Studies19(6): 575–592. 10.1080/17405904.2021.1921817
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2021.1921817 [Google Scholar]
  22. Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, and Joseph N. Cappella
    2008Echo Chamber : Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Jaffe, Alexandra
    2009Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Published to Oxford Scholarship Online. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  24. Kim, Min-hyung
    2019 “A real driver of US–China trade conflict: The Sino–US competition for global hegemony and its implications for the future.” International Trade, Politics and Development3(1): 30–40. 10.1108/ITPD‑02‑2019‑003
    https://doi.org/10.1108/ITPD-02-2019-003 [Google Scholar]
  25. Krzyżanowski, Michał
    2014 “Values, imaginaries and templates of journalistic practice: a Critical Discourse Analysis.” Social Semiotics24(3): 345–365. 10.1080/10350330.2014.930607
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2014.930607 [Google Scholar]
  26. 2016 “Recontextualization of neoliberalism and the increasingly conceptual nature of discourse: Challenges for critical discourse studies.” Discourse & Society27(3): 308–321. 10.1177/0957926516630901
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926516630901 [Google Scholar]
  27. Linell, Per
    1998 “Discourse across boundaries: On recontextualisations and blending of voices in professional discourse.” Text & Talk18 (2). 143–157. 10.1515/text.1.1998.18.2.143
    https://doi.org/10.1515/text.1.1998.18.2.143 [Google Scholar]
  28. Liu, Xinsheng, and Yi Edward Yang
    2015 “Examining China’s Official Media Perception of the United States: A Content Analysis of People’s Daily Coverage.” Journal of Chinese Political Science, 201: 385–408. 10.1007/s11366‑015‑9340‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11366-015-9340-8 [Google Scholar]
  29. Mackay, Rowan R.
    2015 “Multimodal legitimation: Selling Scottish independence.” Discourse & Society26(3): 323–348. 10.1177/0957926514564737
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926514564737 [Google Scholar]
  30. Manosuthikit, Aree
    2021 “Legitimation strategies and discourses in editorials: Myanmar’s new foreign policy on ASEAN membership.” Discourse, Context & Media401: 1–11. 10.1016/j.dcm.2021.100464
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2021.100464 [Google Scholar]
  31. Martin, James Robert, and Peter R. R. White
    2005The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in English. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9780230511910
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230511910 [Google Scholar]
  32. Martín-Rojo, Luisa, and Teun A. van Dijk
    1997 “’There was a problem, and it was solved!’: legitimating the expulsion of ‘illegal’ migrants in Spanish parliamentary discourse.” Discourse & Society8(4): 523–566. 10.1177/0957926597008004005
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926597008004005 [Google Scholar]
  33. Mayer, Jane
    2019 “The Making of the Fox News White House: Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?” The New Yorker, March 4, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/03/11/the-making-of-the-fox-news-white-house
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Mirhosseini, Seyyed-Abdolhamid
    2017 “Discursive double-legitimation of (avoiding) another war in Obama’s 2013 address on Syria.” Journal of Language and Politics16(5): 706–730. 10.1075/jlp.16016.mir
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.16016.mir [Google Scholar]
  35. Reyes, Antonio
    2011 “Strategies of legitimization in political discourse: from words to actions.” Discourse & Society22(6): 781–807. 10.1177/0957926511419927
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926511419927 [Google Scholar]
  36. Song, Jianlin, and James Paul Gee
    2019 “Slogans with Chinese characteristics: the political functions of a discourse form.” Discourse & Society31(2): 201–217. 10.1177/0957926519880033
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926519880033 [Google Scholar]
  37. Strömbäck, Jesper., and Esser Frank
    2014 “Mediatization of politics: transforming democracies and reshaping politics.” InMediatization of communication, edited. byKnut Lundby, 375–404. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. 10.1515/9783110272215.375
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110272215.375 [Google Scholar]
  38. Sunstein, Cass
    2007Republic. Com 2.0. New York: Princeton UP.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Tong, Jingrong
    2014 “Discourse of journalism and legitimacy in post-reform China.” InDiscourse, Politics and Media in Contemporary China, edited byQing Cao, Hailong. Tian, and Pau. Chilton, 123–144. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 10.1075/dapsac.54.06ton
    https://doi.org/10.1075/dapsac.54.06ton [Google Scholar]
  40. van Dijk, Teun A.
    1988News Analysis: Case Studies of International and National News in the Press. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. 1998Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: SAGE.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. 2006 “Discourse and manipulation.” Discourse & Society17(3): 359–383. 10.1177/0957926506060250
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926506060250 [Google Scholar]
  43. van Leeuwen, Theo
    2008Discourse and Practice: New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195323306.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195323306.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  44. van Leeuwen, Theo, and Ruth Wodak
    1999 “Legitimizing immigration control: a discourse-historical analysis.” Discourse Studies1(1): 83–118. 10.1177/1461445699001001005
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445699001001005 [Google Scholar]
  45. Wang, Guofeng
    2020 “Legitimization strategies in China’s official media: the 2018 vaccine scandal in China.” Social Semiotics30(5): 685–698. 10.1080/10350330.2020.1766262
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2020.1766262 [Google Scholar]
  46. Wang, Hong, and Yunfeng Ge
    2019 “Negotiating national identities in conflict situations: The discursive reproduction of China-USA trade dispute in China’s news reports.” Discourse & Communication14(1): 65–83. 10.1177/1750481319893406
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1750481319893406 [Google Scholar]
  47. Wang, Yuzhu, and Fangfei Jiang
    2019 “特朗普政府的经济单边主义及其影响.” [Economic unilateralism of the Trump administration and its impact]. International Studies41: 110–122. rdbk1.ynlib.cn:6251/Qk/Paper/711440
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Yu, Wen
    2019 “完善坚持正确导向的舆论引导工作机制.” [Improving the public opinion guidance working mechanism that adheres to the correct orientation]. Cyberspace Administration of China, December 17, 2019. www.cac.gov.cn/2019-12/17/c_1578118239436134.htm
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error