“The Belt and Road is How”. Audiovisual Narratives and Political Discourse on The “New Silk Road”

Author: Emma Lupano (University of Milan, Italy)
Speaker: Emma Lupano
Topic: Applied Sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


The Belt and Road (BRI) Forum for International Cooperation, held in Beijing in May 2017, was the first event to gather official representatives from almost 60 countries in the name of China’s project to re-enliven the spirit of the ancient Silk Road. Before and during the Forum, music videos were released online, promoting the benefits that the BRI would bring to the many populations involved, reproducing keywords from the institutional discourse on the initiative. Institutionally-inspired music videos and cartoons have become growingly common in the Chinese cyberspace since 2013, with the aim to promote the CCP’s political message among younger citizens (Lei, Liang 2017; de Burgh 2017). This contribution studies the case of the clips released on the occasion of the 2017 Forum, with the aim of offering an insight into the role of this type of product in the popularisation of the political discourse of the Chinese Communist Party both internally and globally. Since the contribution focuses on videos released for national and international audiences, the discussion will be placed within the analytic framework of “soft power” (软实力) (Cao 2014; Riva 2016), and of the specific distinction made by Chinese scholars between internal and external soft power (Liu & Wang 2007). A selection of videos will be analysed with the aim of comparing recurring expressions and keywords with keywords coming from the institutional discourse on the subject of the BRI. It will show how a fresh and catchy means of communication has been used to promote the institutional discourse on a key subject for the current leadership. The role of such products in successfully deliver the CCP’s message to the national and international public will be discussed.


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Keywords: China, online video, institutional discourse, Belt and Road Initiative