Staging Repentance: A Discourse Analysis of Mediated Confession in Xi Jinping’s First Five-Year Term

Yuanyuan Liu


Since Xi Jinping took office as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, he has been tightening ideological control across many fronts. This article investigates how the framing of televised confessions facilitates Xi’s rule. Originating from the intra-Party disciplinary technique of self-criticism, the recent resurgence of mediated confessions reflects Xi’s pursued strategy in tackling social and political challenges. Applying critical discourse analysis to the case of the disappeared Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, this paper shows the way in which the framing of Gui’s televised confession follows Xi’s so-called rule of law agenda and selectively appeals to traditional Chinese family values. The paper argues that the propa-ganda value of the televised confession from a little-known, non-Party confessant lies in its banality, which blends into the Party’s everyday narration. The resurgence of confessions might suggest a regression towards Maoist-style campaigns, but more audience-oriented research is needed to address this issue fully.

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