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The Arabic Spring in the Eyes of Chinese Political Leaders. A Critical Discourse Analysis of Chinese political rhetoric

Ann-Sophie Poulain, Christ’l De Landtsheer, Lieuwe Kalkhoven

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This article aims at examining the political rhetoric of the Chinese government about the Arab Spring, which is seen as a turning point in the rhetoric of China’s leaders in relation to the international community. It focuses on two key speeches by the Chinese political elite, i.e. personated by the Chinese president Hu Jintao and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi. This study of Chinese elite rhetoric provides us with information on the view by this the Chinese political on the future of the People’s Republic and on the actual influence of the Chinese history and culture on Chinese policies. On the basis of a critical discourse analysis of the speeches, we focus on the themes referring to the Arab Spring and examine the ideologies that are underlying these themes. Key themes that recurred repeatedly are harmony and social stability, both main goals in China’s current policy, both in a domestic and international context. It shows that the fundamental values, that have shaped the People's Republic, and the ancient cultural values, are still of great importance, despite the country’s state of development. The Chinese view on the Arab Spring should therefore be described in this context. Although we see no moral judgment towards the uprisings in the Arab world, their main vision reverts to the principle of sovereignty, stability and harmony. The realization that democratization and social changes are necessary to accommodate social discontent is present, however, only within the limits of stability and under the leadership of the Communist Party. We can therefore conclude that the Chinese leaders oppose any form of abrupt reforms.

Keywords: People’s Republic of China – Arab Spring – Rhetoric – Political Elite – Critical Discourse Analysis


Bibliography: Poulain, Ann-Sophie/De Landtsheer, Christ'l/Kalkhoven, Lieuwe: The Arabic Spring in the Eyes of Chinese Political Leaders. A Critical Discourse Analysis of Chinese political rhetoric, PCS, 1-2014, pp. 82-100.