Media as a Front in the US-China Trade War: A Transnational Comparative Framing Analysis of US and Chinese Newspapers

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In the ‘trade war’ between the United States and China the media have become a significant front in the battle to shape both national and international public opinion. A transnational comparative framing approach is used to understand how the USA Today and China Daily newspapers framed the issue with focus on the frames and themes given salience to narrate the trade war. A total of 128 stories are selected from the two newspapers over a six months period and analysed using content analysis. The study reveals that the two newspapers were similar in their use of political and economic consequences as the dominant frame. The dominance of the consequences frame reduced the trade war to a question of winners and losers thus oversimplifying the narrative on the trade war and this is observed as part of formulaic coverage used in reporting international news in order to shape domestic and international public opinion. On the themes, China Daily largely represents the official position of the Chinese government while for the USA Today the study finds that the themes did not reflect a patriotic slant which is often adopted by US media when reporting on conflict and foreign affairs issues. The findings suggest that unlike in military conflicts where there a casualties and the media are inclined to adopt a patriotic slant, the nature of the trade war has given the USA Today freedom to choose a front which is more critical to the administration.

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American Communication Journal

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