Reinventing a moral mode : a textual analysis of 21st century “living Lei Fengs” in China Daily
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This study explores how China Daily has extended the collective memory of iconic Chinese role model Lei Feng in articles about so-called “living Lei Fengs” published from 2003 to 2017. The study uses quantitative and qualitative textual analysis and employs theories of collective memory to explain how the Chinese government and media collaborate in using new national role models to shape the public narrative about Lei Feng in the minds of Chinese and foreign readers. The findings reveal and introduce three major strategies of collective memory shaping: direct reauthorization, which seeks to keep Lei Feng’s traditional characteristics alive by promoting role models who hew closely to Lei’s original image; indirect reauthorization, which addresses topical problems by ascribing new traits to Lei Feng’s successors based on their connections with specific social issues; and transference, which anoints foreigners as living Lei Fengs in an effort to build international goodwill. This study concludes that so far in the 21st century, China Daily has regularly promoted all three types of living Lei Fengs as part of a strategy to combat “spiritual pollution” from the West and building a positive image of China abroad. The findings also indicate that the Chinese government retains a strong hold on state media and continues to use it to influence citizens by promoting changing versions of public memories.
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