This paper examines the meanings associated with the high-frequency social address term baixing (‘common people’) in China’s contemporary news media, through the analysis of a sizable corpus of data from China’s online news portals, together with the results of qualitative research derived from participation in an online discussion forum. The findings of this project indicate that the term baixing is closely associated with discourses of insignificance, obedience, and powerlessness. This study sets out to make a contribution to current research on Chinese address terms through the use of a corpus-based methodology, by expanding the site of investigation beyond face-to-face encounters to a wider media public, and thereby to provide insights into the discourses of citizen identity in contemporary China.
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