In 2005, Beijing embarked on a public relations campaign designed to change the world’s perception of China as the next dangerous power to challenge US hegemony. The past decade had seen China grow at an annual rate of nearly 10 percent, making it the world’s fourth largest economy by the end of 2005. As such a phenomenal economic force, China possesses the potential to become a great power both regionally and globally.
The growth in power has the United States and Europe looking askance at China, questioning the country’s intentions and motivations. Particularly the US sees it as a potentially dangerous challenger on the world stage. China’s blemished history as an untrustworthy and unpredictable diplomatic actor exacerbates the problem.
I use critical discourse analysis to study how Beijing goes about dealing with their predicament in seek to construct a new ethos for itself. I have selected texts representing important directions in Beijing’s recent discourse and completed an analysis of the macrostructures of the texts using Fairclough’s three-dimensional model of discourse. In addition, I have made use of genre theory, rhetoric and politeness theory to describe my findings within the framework set by Fairclough.
My analysis shows that Beijing makes use of particular forms of politeness work in order to position themselves in relation to their counterparts. They are also bound by the discourses that are already present on the international stage. That is, Beijing’s diplomacy has both significant interdiscursive and intertextual properties that link their discourse to US perceptions and international genres and norms for diplomacy. Beijing have proved that they have significantly upgraded their diplomatic efforts, but that they are still unable to completely step out of the patterns which have governed their behaviour in the past.