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Binary narratives

China
Media
USA
Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Narratives
Agota Revesz
Technische Universität Berlin
Agota Revesz
Technische Universität Berlin

Abstract

A mere thirty years after the end of the Cold War we find ourselves in a new bipolar system with the US and China as the two protagonists. The decoupling tendency has not been reversed under the Biden administration and China has practically closed its doors to the outside world. Both in the academia and the media there is a lot of talk about a New Cold War – which might turn out to be a lasting condition. The visit of Vladimir Putin at the opening of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and his meeting with Xi Jinping can be read as a very strong sign of Russia and China uniting fronts. With the two of them at one pole and the US at the other, the rest of the world seems to be facing the choice of joining one camp or the other. Yet, the question remains what names these camps will have on their flags – what stories, what narrative context will support their choices. This is why it is well worth looking into the narratives as they appear in the mainstream media in several countries. My research focus would be the narratives that appeared in the Chinese, Russian, US, German and Hungarian press about Putin’s visit to Beijing and his meeting with Xi Jinping on 4th Feb. 2022. I will look into what specific binaries are constructed around the visit: e.g. a) difference in governmental systems: democracies – autocracies? b) geocultural difference: East – West? c) value-based difference: free world – slave world? The research will be based on close text analysis of articles in at least ten mainstream media outlets with the biggest readership in each country, within the time range of 4th – 6th Feb. (4th Feb. being the day of the meeting). Although they are narratives surrounding a single political event, yet, they should be able to unveil the differences between the two poles in their interpretation of the current polarization. Media narratives of the perceived “other” can be called “master narratives” of a nation, as they serve to unite politicians and the public, ensuring domestic support for decisions in foreign policy. We live in a world of binary narratives – we also need to see what kinds of binaries they are. As US and German media might offer greater diversity in their “official stories”, it might also be interesting to see what binary narratives are constructed in media at different parts of the political spectrum. The inclusion of Hungarian media will offer an insight into how the media (itself polarized) of a small country on the semi-periphery of the EU reacts to an event that might prove decisive for its future. I am a sinologist and former diplomat, my current research focus is Chinese media, narratives and soft power. I can read all five languages that are indicated above.