(Re)manufacturing consent in English: A corpus-based critical discourse analysis of government interpreters’ mediation of China’s discourse on PEOPLE at televised political press conferences

Chonglong Gu

Unlike the use of force or coercion, the articulation of ideological discourse constitutes a softer approach in the legitimation and hegemonic rule of dominant political actors, achieved through manufacturing consent (Gramsci 1971). As a major site of ideology, the televised premier’s press conferences in China represent such a discursive event, enabling the Chinese government to convey its discursive formations or “regime of truth” (Foucault 1984) and in doing so to manufacture consent. Benefitting from a corpus containing 20 years of China’s Premier-Meets-the-Press conference data (1998–2017), this corpus-based critical discourse analysis (CDA) study explores the government-affiliated interpreters’ mediation and (re)construction of China’s discourse on PEOPLE. The interpreters are found to reinforce China’s discourse on PEOPLE (e.g., increased mentions of PEOPLE-related items) and (re)construct a more positive image of Beijing being people-oriented and concerned with its people in English (e.g., the repeated employment of ‘our people’). An examination of the collocational patterns relating to the item ‘people’ (e.g., people’s, of/to/for/by*people) (re)presented in the English discourse sheds light on the government‒people ties in China. This article highlights the government interpreters’ vital agency role in image (re)construction and in contributing to the government’s political legitimation and hegemonic rule, particularly given the increasingly mediat(is)ed world we live in.

Publication history
Table of contents

The interpreter-mediated Premier-Meets-the-Press conferences in China were gradually institutionalised and routinised from 1993 onwards, and started to be widely televised from 1998 (Yi 2016a). During these press conferences, the Chinese premier, the second most important official (ranked immediately after the president in China’s political hierarchy), answers a wide range of interesting and potentially sensitive questions from Chinese and international journalists. The topics covered include domestic issues such as China’s political and economic restructuring, anti-corruption campaigns, the Chinese people’s well-being, employment in China, Tibet, Hong Kong; as well as global issues such as the US election, the global financial crisis, China-Japan relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

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