Framing China: Discourses of Othering in US News and Political Rhetoric

Document Type


Publication Date

February 2018

Publication Title

Global Media and China



China has emerged in the early 21st century as arguably the most important partner and rival to the US. Increasingly, the US perceives China’s rise on the world stage as a threat to US global hegemony. US national discourse has constructed China, we argue, as a potential enemy Other – an ever-present threat with whom we cautiously partner. This paper situates this flexible construction within the history of Orientalism in US national discourse – China as exotic Other, Yellow Peril, Red Peril, and little brother – and considers the cultural work that the trope of China as potential enemy Other performs to justify US actions to keep China in line. Specifically, the paper traces Orientalist tropes that emerge in US political rhetoric and news media pertaining to three areas of significance in US-China relations – China’s national currency valuation, cyber espionage, and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.