BETWEEN “THEM” AND “US”: THE CHANGING REPRESENTATION OF CHINA IN THE HONG KONG PRESS 20 YEARS ON
Abstract - This study provides an account of how the representation of China has changed diachronically in the Hong Kong press since the sovereignty transfer in 1997, against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s rapid assimilation into China and the changing political economy of the Hong Kong press. Adopting a corpus-based approach to critical discourse studies, we analyse two corpora of news reports about China in the South China Morning Post,the most prominent liberal English-language broadsheet in Hong Kong, one for 1997-2000 (the three years right after the handover) and the other one for 2015-2018, focusing on keywords, co-occurring patterns, and concordances. It is found that the corpus for the early post-colonial period is dominated by coverage of human rights and other domestic political issues, very negatively framing China as an authoritarian state and human rights violator. In contrast, the corpus for the recent three years mainly focuses on China’s diplomatic disputes and global power, ambivalently representing China in terms of its global, military and economic power and its military and geopolitical aggression. While the corpus also similarly foregrounds China’s authoritarianism, the negative representation is much subtler and only plays a minimal role. Understanding the findings from a CDS perspective, we attribute the diachronic changes to the newspaper’s changing stance following two ownership changes since the 1990s, China’s rising power, Hong Kong’s economic integration into China, and the wide political-ideological gap between Hong Kong and China.