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The discursive reproduction of Chinese and Japanese national identities: Editorials and opinions of the East China Sea dispute in the China Daily and Daily Yomiuri
Unformatted Document Text:  News, identity and ideology 16 ideological contestation between the two nations on the whole issue of “history”, which has been a constant source of tension between Japan and its neighbors in Asia, including China (He, 2008). For China the whole issue regarding the sovereignty of the islands is intertwined with the collective memory of China as an ancient civilization exploited by foreign nations and Japan’s actions in the Second Sino-Japanese War. As the official mouthpiece of the Chinese government it is therefore not too surprising that the China Daily devoted so much space to history as the basis of its legitimate claim to the islands. Conversely, the Daily Yomiuri’s attention to a shorter historical timeframe and the lack of explication of the context in which Japan has sovereignty over the islands reflects to some extent the lack of a political consensus in Japan on how to address its past (Schneider, 2008). This poses a continuing dilemma among the Japanese elite on how to construct a collective memory that may reflect negatively on the nation. Discursive construction of the self and the other Given the nature of the trawler incident one of the key macro-strategies adopted by both newspapers is the strategy of justification, which is used to justify the governments’ subsequent actions. It is through the discursive construction of such strategies that elements of national identity are also reproduced because these strategies legitimize the actions of the nation in response to ‘attacks’ from other nations. For the China Daily ‘China’ as a nation is synonymous and inseparable with the ‘Chinese people’. Discourse is therefore constructed to emphasize the agency of the Chinese government as the protector of its citizens. Such constructions serve to legitimize the status of the Chinese Communist Party and justify its actions because the actions are made in the name of the people and their interests. This is represented by the syntactic style in extract 5 which show the Chinese government personified and the people as co-subjects who concurrently express “shock” at Japan’s claims that the Chinese captain entered Japanese territory illegally; and in extract 6

Authors: Chan, Michael.
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News, identity and ideology 16
ideological contestation between the two nations on the whole issue of “history”, which has 
been a constant source of tension between Japan and its neighbors in Asia, including China 
(He, 2008). For China the whole issue regarding the sovereignty of the islands is intertwined 
with the collective memory of China as an ancient civilization exploited by foreign nations 
and Japan’s actions in the Second Sino-Japanese War. As the official mouthpiece of the 
Chinese government it is therefore not too surprising that the China Daily devoted so much 
space to history as the basis of its legitimate claim to the islands. Conversely, the Daily 
Yomiuri’s attention to a shorter historical timeframe and the lack of explication of the context 
in which Japan has sovereignty over the islands reflects to some extent the lack of a political 
consensus in Japan on how to address its past (Schneider, 2008). This poses a continuing 
dilemma among the Japanese elite on how to construct a collective memory that may reflect 
negatively on the nation. 
Discursive construction of the self and the other
Given the nature of the trawler incident one of the key macro-strategies adopted by 
both newspapers is the strategy of justification, which is used to justify the governments’ 
subsequent actions. It is through the discursive construction of such strategies that elements 
of national identity are also reproduced because these strategies legitimize the actions of the 
nation in response to ‘attacks’ from other nations. For the China Daily ‘China’ as a nation is 
synonymous and inseparable with the ‘Chinese people’. Discourse is therefore constructed to 
emphasize the agency of the Chinese government as the protector of its citizens. Such 
constructions serve to legitimize the status of the Chinese Communist Party and justify its 
actions because the actions are made in the name of the people and their interests. 
This is represented by the syntactic style in extract 5 which show the Chinese 
government personified and the people as co-subjects who concurrently express “shock” at 
Japan’s claims that the Chinese captain entered Japanese territory illegally; and in extract 6 


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