This study investigates the question of Chinese indirection as a result of the use of modality expressions, which is conventionally believed to be the hallmark of Chinese rhetoric (e.g. Young, 1994; Bond, 1991; Powers and Gong, 1994). The present research compares and contrasts the degree of assertiveness as reflected in the patterns of modality in two corpora of expert Chinese and English argumentative writing on the same controversial subject. Corpus evidence shows that contrary to expectations, the Chinese writers are significantly more assertive than the English in arguing their case. The frequency of use and distribution patterns of intensifiers present both quantitative and qualitative evidence for the rhetorical differences, which may be accounted for culturally.