This thesis is a comparative analysis of Chinese and British media coverage of China in Africa. The study is aimed at researching how China is framed in the respective country’s media, and to determine whether the frames are changing in the years between 2006 and 2011.
News frames tend to highlight certain pieces of information about an item which is the subject of communication, thereby making them more noticeable or salient. In the process of framing social and political issues, the news media can play a powerful role in determining how people perceive the world surrounding them.
For this study I have chosen to analyse the Guardian and the Economist, selected on the basis of their importance as national agenda setters and extensive coverage of the Sino-African relations. From Chinese media, I have analysed how the official party-paper, Renmin Ribao, and the Guangdong-based investigative weekly, Nanfang Zhoumo, covers China in Africa.
In western literary accounts China is commonly portrayed as the other to the West. Fifteen years ago China, the other, was framed as an inferior, clumsy and inept communist nation. Today, the China framed in British news stories has evolved to become a greedy and skillful capitalist, a determined giant with comprehensive plans to exploit Africa for its resources.
In China, however, media frames portray a benevolent developing nation nursing a warm friendship with China’s African brothers, while promoting mutual benefit and pragmatic cooperation. This thesis looks into how the frames of the ruthless China on the one hand and the benevolent China on the other, are developed and propagated simultaneously.
The image of a ruthless and greedy China in the West coincides with the the country’s remarkable rise as an economic power. Frames in Chinese media portraying a benevolent and peace-loving nation have emerged as response to Chinese political leaders’ quest to improve China’s global image.
Based on empirical data, this analysis argues that framing in British and Chinese media is a result of a selection processes, and an explicit style of presentation by the two countries’ publications. The selection process not only reflects what takes place in news rooms, but also the influence from political and economic elites who compete to dominate news stories.