A Comparative Study of the Discursive Construction of British National Identity and Chinese National Identity in Foreign Policy

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Title: A Comparative Study of the Discursive Construction of British National Identity and Chinese National Identity in Foreign Policy
Author: Yen, Chieh
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2016
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703273387
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Political History
Poliittinen historia
Politisk historia
Abstract: The Master’s thesis examines how British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping construct discursive British and Chinese national identities in the context of foreign policy, how they are similar and different in their discursive constructions, and the reasons of such similarities and differences. In the past three years, both domestic politics and foreign policy in Asia and Europe have been shaped by the rise of nationalist parties as well as the ongoing financial crisis. Important issues such as EU enlargement, nuclear security, the refugee crisis, and Islamic extremism have a great impact on how political leaders construct their rhetoric on national identity in foreign policy, thus opens a fertile ground for research on nationalism. Based on a critical evaluation of literature on theories of nationalism and foreign policy, a modified theoretical framework is developed to explain components of national identity in discourse: construction and narrative of a common past that has national and international significance, construction of a cultural and political continuity, construction of the 'other,' and construction of common political goals and visions that are crucial for the nation’s destiny and the world’s future. The study uses Critical Discourse Analysis to identify and evaluate the fundamental similarities and differences Cameron and Xi construct their national identities in a total of 106 speeches from 2013 to 2015. Based on the findings, the thesis then uses Comparative-Historical Method to elaborate on important similarities and differences and discuss their historical significance. The findings show that that despite the cultural, historical, and political differences between Britain and China, both Cameron and Xi use various similar strategies to ensure that the discursive construction of their national identities is coherent with Britain and China’s national interests. The results suggest a new approach to the nationalism in Asia and Europe, which takes into account but look beyond Asia and Europe’s obvious difference in culture, politics, and history, and aims to reveal the means and the extent of convergence and divergence of nationalism in various forms.

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