Critical discourse analysis of the discursive representations of blackness on Chinese social media

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    In recent years, diplomatic ties between China and African countries have been steadily deepened. However, in contrast to the friendly rhetoric at the state level, racial issues at the individual level are becoming increasingly salient in the Chinese context. While a myriad of studies have been looking at the social, political, and cultural aspects of Sino-African relations, few studies have examined the discursive representations of Black people in China, which have played a crucial role in (re)constituting mutual relations. To bridge the current research gap, this study, based on the 2021 Shadeed Abdulmateen murder case in Ningbo, investigates the online racial discourse that Chinese Internet users have constructed regarding Black people. Deploying critical discourse analysis (specifically the Discourse-Historical approach), we analysed 2766 posts and 13,477 comments collected from the Weibo platform, one of the largest social media platforms in China, to identify the discursive strategies adopted in (re)establishing the dichotomy between the positive Chinese self-representation and the negative other-representation of Black people. The thematic analysis illustrates that racism in China is a complex combination of anti-Black sentiment, anti-government sentiment, anti-social-class sentiment, and nationalism. In addition, discourse analysis reveals the detailed process of the discursive construction of Selfness and Otherness. Specifically, the argumentation strategy justifies exclusionary practices against Black people in China; the predicational strategy criminalises the Black community and portrays Derek Chauvin as a hero; and the nomination strategy animalises Black people on the one hand while upgrading them as foreign masters on the other. The two paradoxical narratives serve together to criticise the Chinese government for its unequal favour towards foreigners without directly attacking it. Finally, the study also uncovers the orthographic manoeuvrings crafted by Weibo users to circumvent censorship when (re)producing racist discourse on Weibo. Taken together, the current study presents an in-depth view of racial issues in China as manifested and constituted in racial discourses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023
    EventConference Language and Power - WWU Münster , Münster, Germany
    Duration: 22 Mar 202324 Mar 2023


    ConferenceConference Language and Power
    Abbreviated titleConference 2023 (LAP)
    Internet address


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