One Belt, Competing Metaphors: The Struggle over Strategic Narrative in English-language News Media
This article studies the reception by English-language news media of a strategic narrative deployed by the Chinese state to reposition China in the world. Metaphor analysis is conducted on 816 articles from six countries or regions at the time of a summit in Beijing about the US$5 trillion Belt and Road Initiative to trace the impact of the symbolic work done by China on Western representations. The analysis, combining computer-assisted analysis of the corpus with close analysis of each text, identifies the widespread use of a set of conventional metaphors that reinforce the Chinese state’s geopolitical shift, but also frequent and sometimes highly conscious use of novel metaphors that cast doubt on official Chinese discourse and foreground it as a geopolitical move. The analysis reveals a global English-language imaginary that both extends beyond long-standing stereotypes of China and displays an ironic and critical attitude toward China’s strategic self-positioning. The article argues for the importance of investigating strategic narrative as a rhetorical performance.