Scapegoat or manipulated victim?
Metaphorical representations of the
Sino-US currency dispute in Chinese and
American financial news
Abstract: This article compares the metaphorical representations of the currency dispute between China and the United States in two newspapers, i.e., China
Daily (CD) from China and The New York Times (NYT) from the United States, in order to investigate the role of conceptual metaphors in framing the dispute and constructing the argumentative position and ideological stance of each newspaper. The findings suggest that while five dominant metaphor themes can be identified in both newspapers: PHYSICAL MOVEMENT, PHYSICAL CONFLICT/WAR, HEALTH/
STRENGTH, VICTIM, and MACHINE, they are appropriated and reformulated in different ways to construct the argumentative position and ideological stance of each newspaper. NYT prefers to frame the dispute as a physical conflict and the
Renminbi as a victim of government control and manipulation and argues for the overhaul of the machine of China’s exchange rate policies. CD favors the conceptualization of the dispute as a war and the Renminbi as a scapegoat for the problems of the United States and insists on the adjustment of the machine of China’s exchange rate policies.
Keywords: metaphor, currency dispute, exchange rate, critical metaphor analysis, financial news
DOI 10.1515/text-2015-0003 1 Introduction
As one of the main issues to arise between China and the United States in the last decade, the currency dispute over the exchange rate of the Renminbi (i.e., the Chinese yuan) has drawn wide international interest and received extensive media coverage in both China and the United States. It has been demonstrated
Liu Ming, School of International Studies, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China,
Text&Talk 2015; 35(3): 337–357 that media play an indispensible role in bringing home to the public issues of international significance and shaping their opinions (Fairclough 1995). This article compares the representations of the issue in two newspapers, namely
China Daily (CD) from China and The New York Times (NYT) from the United
States, through a critical examination of the metaphorical representations of the currency dispute in their news reports. The primary purpose is to explore the role of conceptual metaphors in framing this issue and constructing the argumentative position and ideological stance of each newspaper.
Since the introduction of conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) by Lakoff and
Johnson (1980), metaphor has been understood as a matter of both language and thought. This has given rise to a wealth of studies on the existence and functions of conceptual metaphors in different types of discourses, ranging from those related to a particular event to those from different registers, genres, cultures, and languages (e.g., Dudley-Evans and Henderson 1990; Henderson 1994; Dirven et al. 2003; Deignan and Potter 2004; Semino 2008). While traditional studies in cognitive linguistics focused on the identification and analysis of semantic features of conceptual metaphors, recent studies have turned their attention to the rhetorical and ideological significance of metaphors in specific contexts (Koller 2005; López and Llopis 2010; Charteris-Black 2004; Lakoff 2004). Especially in the analysis of public and political discourses, numerous examples of conceptual metaphors that serve to construct competing ideologies in the representations of a certain issue have already been pointed out (e.g.,
Chiang and Duann 2007; Flowerdew and Leong 2007; Burnes 2011). In view of the growing significance of business discourse in our lives, some researchers have also turned to financial news to investigate the role of conceptual metaphors in the construction of different representations and evaluations of a certain issue or reality (e.g., Charteris-Black and Musolff 2003; Vaghi and
Venuti 2004; Semino 2002; Herrera-Soler and White 2012).
The currency dispute between China and the United States serves as a good case for study in view of its contentious nature and the constant negotiations and struggles involved during the process. CD and NYT are selected for comparison in this study. As the largest and most influential national English newspaper, CD represents a typical party organ and serves as a main channel for
China’s external communication (Guo and Huang 2002). NYT is regarded as a typical example of Anglo-American newspapers and often taken as a newspaper of choice for the study of news reporting in the United States (e.g., Li 2009; Amer 2009). It is thus of great interest to investigate how conceptual metaphors are used in the two newspapers to frame the issue and construct their argumentative positions and ideological stances with respect to the dominant national interests in each country. In the following part, I first give a brief introduction to the 338 Liu Ming background of the issue and previous studies on metaphors in financial news.
Section 3 sketches the main points of a critical approach to metaphor studies, i.e., critical metaphor analysis. Section 4 introduces the data and specifies the analytic procedure. Section 5 presents the main findings, followed by a brief conclusion in Section 6. 2 Research background 2.1 Contextualization of this study
Although the history of the currency dispute can be traced back to January of 1994 when China first adopted the floating exchange rate policy and pegged the yuan to the US dollar, it did not emerge as a key issue between China and the
United States until the turn of the new millennium as a result of the slump in the world economy. The intense nature of this issue can be perceived in the three rounds of pressure from the United States in the last decade, occurring between 2002 and 2003, 2005 and 2006, and 2009 and 2010, respectively (Lu 2011). The mounting international pressure, especially the pressure from the US government, contributed to the exchange rate reform on 21 July 2005 by the Chinese government, which led to a 2.1% rise in the exchange rate of the Renminbi to the dollar and allowed the exchange rate of the Renminbi to be determined more flexibly with reference to a basket of currencies (Zhou 2009: 1). The following several years saw the gradual appreciation of the Renminbi. However, the ensuing global economic crisis in 2008 and the side-effects of the Renminbi appreciation on its economy made the Chinese government refuse to let the