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Analysis of German perspective (Der Spiegel)
Based on Van Dijk’s macro-rules to yield the super-concept, Table 2A.4 in the Appendix shows the prevailing topics of the 20 headlines about China in the year 2010. Nineteen (95%) of the 20 topics are derived from the use of the ‘generalisation’ macro-rule, followed by one from ‘deletion’. The top prevailing topic, from the German perspective, is by far found to be issues related to international trade and currency (six headlines: G1C, G3C, G9C, G14C, G18C, G20C). The other less prominent topics are China's growth model (four headlines: G4C, G5C, G10C, G13C), workers' rights (three headlines: G7C, G8C, G19C), global expansion (three headlines: G11C, G15C, G17C), new world order (one headline: G2C), growth model (one headline: G6C), China, an enemy (one headline: G12C), and environment (one headline: G16C). For simplicity, China’s growth mode! and growth model are merged into one single overarching generic topic; in other words, there are altogether five headlines that express the topic growth mode! and this is the second most prevailing topic across the 20 sampled headlines in Der Spiegel.
Inclusion and exclusion
An analysis of the corpus from Der Spiegel shows that there are seven non- Chinese social actors represented across the 20 sampled headlines, in addition to the Chinese actors, and they are the US, Germany, Europe, Japan, the West, the world, and Africa. Table 2.25 shows the frequency distribution of inclusion and exclusion of the agent social actors (Chinese and non-Chinese).
As Table 2.25 shows, Chinese agent social actors are included at a frequency of 60%, the highest among all the social actors. It is also included at a three-fold rate compared to the next biggest agent social actor (the American), which is included at a frequency of 20%. This indicates that the Chinese agent social actors have a higher likelihood of being attributed representational
categories than the non-Chinese social actors given their higher prevalent presence in the headlines.
Apart from the Americans, which are the most dominantly represented participants in the subgroup of included non-Chinese agent actors, the West is the other non-Chinese actor that is included, at 5%. The agency of the German, European, Japanese, world, and African actors, however, is included at a frequency of 0%. When the focus shifts to the exclusion process, the Chinese agents are also excluded more frequently (30%) than the non-Chinese actors. Only the agency of the American actor is excluded (5%) among the subgroup of non-Chinese actors, while the rest (Germany, Europe, Japan, West, world, and Japan) remains at 0%. The following are some examples of the exclusion of Chinese agency:
Given that the Chinese and American agents are the only actors that are included and excluded across the 20 sampled headlines, it also means that they are attributed with representational categories more frequently than the other non-Chinese actors. This means that the German newsmagazine is putting its focus on the action of the Chinese and American participants by agentilising both of them in the headlines, while de-agentilising the other participants.
Table 2.26 shows that Der Spiegel newsmagazine predominantly relies on the strategy of backgrounding the Chinese (30%) and American (5%) social actors, thus delaying their appearance related to the actions mentioned in the headlines. This has the effect of reducing explicit references to the agency of an action, thus de-emphasising the social actors. However, they are still subsequently referred to in the lead and main texts underneath the headlines concerned.
Here are two methods Der Spiegel newsmagazine uses to realise less radical exclusion or backgrounding: the use of (i) adjectives (G6C, G7C, G11C, G18C) and (ii) non-finite clauses (G1C, G14C). In G6C and G18C, for instance, the use of the adjectives ‘fast-moving’ and ‘ulterior’ to mask the agency of the actions renders it difficult for the readers to determine the identity of the actor(s) responsible for speeding up the process of harmony (G6C) and for having hidden intentions when extending help to the others (G18C). The choice of the adjectives depicts an image of a hasty collaboration, probably even temporary in nature, between trading partners in a globalised context, as well as someone with a hidden agenda.
Another method used to realise backgrounding is through non-finite clauses, which function as a grammatical subject and eliminate the need to identify the agency of the social actor. By using the phrase ‘at the expense of’ and ‘currency as a weapon’ in the subordinate clauses of G1C and G14C, respectively, to circumvent the need to reveal the agency, readers will find it more difficult to know who is responsible for the problems concerning foreign exchange rates and international trade.
The analysis of the examples above indicates an unequal relationship, in which the interests of a group of trading partners (the in-group) have been compromised or even burdened by the action of the other group of trading partners (the out-group). As Van Dijk (2000) posits, burden is one of the analytical strategies that journalists may employ to shape perceptions with their ideological position. Given that it is unclear who are the patients or social actors subjected to the burden and who are the agents or social actors causing the harm, this ambiguity in the headline creates an ominous impression to the readers of what is to come in the main text. As Subba (2014) puts it, the unknown generates anxiety and fear.
When attention is shifted to the non-agency of social actors, Table 2.27 shows that the Chinese and European actors are included the most frequently, at 10% each, compared to the German (5%), and European (15%). This pattern points to a higher incidence of the Chinese and European actors being at the receiving end of an activity in the headlines. Here are some examples of the included Chinese non-agent actors:
1. Cheap exports: US Congress wants to punish China for its G3C
2. Overheated housing market: Harvard professor sees signs of a G10C
The following are some examples of the included European non-agent actors:
1. Copenhagen Climate Summit: USA and China ally themselves A4C
2. Debt crisis: China presents itself as the euro’s saviour G20C
For the other non-agent actors (such as the US, the West, and Africa), the rate of their inclusion in the headlines is 0%. In the process of exclusion. Table 2.27 depicts the following pattern: the non-agency of the Chinese and African actors is excluded at a rate of 0%, while that of the American, German, European, Japanese, the world, and the West is excluded at 30%, 5%, 5%, 10%, 5%, and 5%, respectively. In other words, the exclusion representational category reveals the formation of two groups: one comprising China and Africa, and another the US, Germany, Europe, Japan, the world, and the West.
Table 2.28 shows that Der Spiegel newsmagazine has a tendency to background the American, German, European, Japanese, and Western non-agent actors, thus reducing explicit references to the non-agents in association with the activity mentioned in the headlines. Their traces, however, can still be found in the headlines. The following are some examples of the backgrounding of American actor non-agency:
hunger for takeover
Table 2.29 shows that that the Chinese and American social actors are the only participants allocated activated roles, at 25% and 20%, respectively. The other participants like Germany, Europe, Japan, West, world, and Africa are activated at a frequency of 0%. Within the subcategories of activation, China is activated through participation, circumstantialisation and possessivation at a frequency of 20%, 0%, and 5%, respectively; the United States is activated through participation (5%).
In the following examples, the Chinese social actors are depicted to be active participants through participation, i.e. in the subject position in a clause, when it comes to issues relating to international trade and currency: