Research Articles

Constructing the Hero: Nationalistic News Narratives in Contemporary China



This article explores how, in times of crisis, Chinese journalism is still heavily influenced by the Maoist era in which the news media served as the mouthpiece for government propaganda. From the seasonal flooding of China’s great rivers to international controversies such as the 2001 US Spy-Plane incident, China’s state-controlled media has called upon a complex interweaving of Chinese ‘values’ incorporating them into a patriotic narrative of nation-building. In times of adversity these familiar narratives operate within conceptual frameworks that serve to mobilise the masses and, ultimately, present a positive outcome in which ‘the enemy’ (a foreign aggressor, corrupt official or Mother Nature) is defeated. China’s struggle against its foes becomes embodied in the heroic actions of a select individual or group. This article proposes that despite indications of a move from ideology to profit, the Chinese media returns to such ‘hero narratives’ in emergencies as a deliberate and considered means of operationalising existing frameworks for the control of mass audiences.

Keywords: nationalism, hero, narrative, media, crisis, China

How to Cite: Pugsley, P. (2017) “Constructing the Hero: Nationalistic News Narratives in Contemporary China”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 3(1). doi: