Metaphors of a Metaphor

The Rhetoric of the “Chinese Dream”

Beatrice Gallelli    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



Following the profound changes in the Chinese socio-economic structure in the Post-Mao era (1976-), Chinese political language is also undergoing rapid changes – it is becoming more abstract and depoliticised. Alongside the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, political language has enhanced its power by using concepts and linguistic forms which belong to traditional Chinese culture. The ‘Chinese dream’, the concept fostered by the current Chinese leadership, is a clear expression of this trend. In the view of the fifth generation of Chinese leaders, with president Xi Jinping at its ‘core’, the ‘Chinese dream’ is a grand process of ‘national renaissance’ following a century of ‘humiliation’ at the hands of the West and Japan, and is about to be realized. From this perspective, it is shared by all Chinese people and it will satisfy the dreams of all Chinese. But what exactly does this ‘common Chinese dream’ mean, and what does the metaphor of the dream obscure? In order to answer these questions and scrutinise the ideology which upholds Chinese political discourse, one of the most interesting levels of analysis is that of its figurative language, particularly metaphor. In light of Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) important contribution, the analysis of the meaning of the ‘Chinese dream’ is conducted through the examination and interpretation of the conceptual metaphors as used by Xi Jinping in two of his speeches, where he explains this concept. Metaphor is one of the most powerful persuasive means used by politicians, hence, its analysis is a useful tool for discovering and understanding the current Chinese leadership’s rhetoric strategy and its principal goals.

June 30, 2016
Jan. 20, 2016
March 13, 2015

Keywords: Chinese political language‘Chinese dream’MetaphorXi Jinping

Copyright: © 2016 Beatrice Gallelli. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.