National Face and Facework in China’s Foreign Policy

A Corpus-Assisted Case Study of Chinese Foreign Affairs Press Conferences

In: Bandung

The Goffman (1967) and Brown and Levinson (1987) socio-pragmatic theory of face was first devised through speculating on and observing the interaction of individuals. Later research has looked at the phenomenon of group-face (e.g. Spencer-Oatey 2007). In this research we examine how face and facework theory can also be applied to communications made by state actors to the outside world, in other words, whether facework theories could also be applied to national face. To this end we compiled a corpus of all press conferences held by the Ministry of Chinese Foreign Affairs in 2016 and subjected it to quantitative and qualitative analysis, as well as comparative analysis with US White House press briefings. Chinese government statements were felt to be a promising genre partly because of the particularly intricate relations China has with its geographically close partners and neighbours and partly because of the supposed special importance accorded to face in Chinese culture (Kádár et al 2013; Chen and Hwang 2016). The techniques we employ in the analyses derive from the field of corpus-assisted discourse studies (Partington, Duguid and Taylor 2013).

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