Interrogating China’s approach to relations with sub-Saharan Africa in official documents (2000-2010) through critical discourse analysis

Ndenguino-Mpira, Hermanno (2013-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: China‘s rise as an economic superpower has had important consequences for its relations with African countries over the past 10-15 years. Not only were these relations thoroughly reviewed and significantly increased, but China also adopted a new cooperation policy that its administration describes as being based on mutual benefits and win-win economic collaboration. However, there is a sceptical public opinion in Africa and also in some developed countries about China‘s current engagement with African countries, and in particular with countries from the sub-Saharan region. In fact, China is frequently accused of acting as a new colonizing power and of increasing its relations with African countries simply as a strategy to achieve higher power-politics status and to structure a new global economic order. The present study addresses the question of whether China‘s official discourse about its relations with sub-Saharan African countries from 2000 to 2010 contains any grounds for the sceptical public opinion mentioned above. In more concrete terms, the main objective of the study is to determine from a linguistic perspective, and more specifically from a critical discourse analysis point of view, whether there are any overt or covert messages of power and ideology in China‘s discourse to sub-Saharan African countries which could justify the sceptical public opinion about China‘s current engagement in this part of the continent . The texts representing China‘s discourse about its relations with sub-Saharan African countries that are examined for this study comprise official speeches, statements, and other related official documents delivered by Chinese officials in the period 2000-2010, and published in English on the websites of various institutions, including China‘s official websites. These texts are examined from within the framework of the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) as set out by, specifically, Wodak (2001a). The texts are analysed using the DHA three-dimensional procedure consisting of (i) identifying the Content(s) and Topic(s) of the specific discourse, (ii) investigating the discursive strategies used in the specific texts, and (iii) analysing the linguistic means and the specific context-dependent linguistic realizations. On the one hand, the analysis of the Discourse Topics indicates that the relations between China and sub-Saharan African countries are grounded in China‘s pluralist approach to international affairs. From this perspective, then, it could be argued that China‘s current engagement in sub-Saharan Africa does not warrant the sceptical public opinion mentioned earlier. On the other hand, however, the analysis of the discursive strategies used to represent China and sub-Saharan African countries, indicates that such sceptisism is likely warranted. The relations between China and African countries have predominantly been investigated from economic and political perspectives. However, the manner in which these relations are expressed, implied, negotiated, interpreted, distributed, etc. in discourse has not yet received any systematic attention. The present study was therefore undertaken to contribute, from a linguistic perspective, to the knowledge of and the debate about China‘s current engagement in Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: China se opgang as ‘n ekonomiese supermoondheid het belangrike gevolge gehad vir sy betrekkinge met Afrikalande oor die afgelope 10-15 jaar. China het hierdie betrekkinge deeglik hersien en beduidend uitgebrei, en het daarby ook ‘n nuwe samewerkingsbeleid aanvaar wat volgens sy administrasie gegrond is op wedersydse voordele en wen-wen ekonomiese samewerking. Daar is nietemin ‘n skeptiese openbare mening in Afrika en ook in sommige ontwikkelde lande oor China se huidige verbintenis met Afrikalande, en in die besonder met lande van die sub-Sahara streek. Trouens, China word gereeld daarvan beskuldig dat hy optree soos ‘n nuwe koloniale moondheid, en dat sy verhoogde betrekkinge met Afrikalande bloot ‘n strategie is om groter magspolitieke status te bekom en om ‘n nuwe globale ekonomiese struktuur daar te stel. Die huidige studie fokus op die vraag of China se amptelike diskoers oor sy betrekkinge met sub-Sahara Afrikalande vanaf 2000 tot 2010 enige gronde bied vir die genoemde skeptiese openbare mening. In meer konkrete terme, is die hoofoogmerk van die studie om vanuit ‘n taalwetenskaplike perspektief, en meer spesifiek vanuit die oogpunt van kritiese diskoersanalise, vas te stel of China se diskoers met sub-Sahara Afrika enige overte of koverte boodskappe van mag en ideologie bevat wat kan dien as regverdiging vir die skeptiese openbare mening oor China se huidige betrokkenheid in hierdie deel van die kontinent. In die studie word ‘n verskeidenheid tekste ontleed wat verteenwoordigend is van China se diskoers oor sy betrekkinge met sub-Sahara Afrikalande. Dié tekste sluit amptelike toesprake, verklarings en verwante dokumente van Chinese amptenare in wat gelewer is in die tydperk 2000-2010, en wat in Engels gepubliseer is op die webwerwe van verskeie instellings, insluitend China se amptelike webwerwe. Die tekste word ondersoek binne die raamwerk van die Diskoers-Historiese Benadering (DHB) soos uiteengesit in, spesifiek, Wodak (2001a). Die analise van die tekste volg die DHB se drie-dimensionele prosedure, wat die volgende inhou: (i) identifisering van die Inhoud(e) en Onderwerp(e) van die spesifieke diskoers, (ii) analise van die diskursiewe strategieë wat gebruik word in die spesifieke tekste, en (iii) analise van die talige middele en die spesifieke konteks-afhanklike talige realiserings. Aan die een kant dui die analise van die Diskoers Onderwerpe daarop dat die betrekkinge tussen China en sub-Sahara Afrikalande gebaseer is op China se pluralistiese benadering tot internasionale sake. Vanuit hierdie perspektief kan daar dus geargumenteer word dat China se huidige betrokkenheid in sub-Sahara Afrika nie gronde bied vir die skeptiese openbare mening wat hierbo genoem is nie. Aan die ander kant, egter, dui die analise van die diskursiewe strategieë wat aangewend word in die voorstelling van China en sub-Sahara Afrikalande daarop dat daar waarskynlik wel gronde is vir sulke skeptisisme. Die betrekkinge tussen China en Afrikalande is tot dusver merendeels vanuit ekonomiese en politieke perspektiewe ondersoek. Die wyse waarop sulke betrekkinge uitgedruk, geïmpliseer, onderhandel, geïnterpreteer, versprei, ens. word in diskoers, is egter nog nie sistematies ondersoek nie. Die huidige studie is gevolglik onderneem om, vanuit ‘n taalwetenskaplike perspektief, ‘n bydrae te lewer tot die kennis van en die debat oor China se huidige betrokkenheid in Afrika.

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