Scholarly article on topic 'Framing IPhone Consumption by Chinese Mainlanders: Critical Discourse Analysis on News Coverage of China Daily and South China Morning Post'

Framing IPhone Consumption by Chinese Mainlanders: Critical Discourse Analysis on News Coverage of China Daily and South China Morning Post Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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{"IPhone consumption" / "comparative news analysis" / "framing theory" / "discourse analysis" / "content analysis"}

Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Xuan Xie, Yi Ding

Abstract Within the context of bilateral conflicts as constructed by media coverage, this project explored the framing of mainlander's IPhone consumption in Hong Kong by two local newspapers, China Daily and South China Morning Post (SCMP), through comparative discourse analysis and content analysis. It was found that China Daily showed less negative comments and derogatory remarks towards mainlanders. However, the animosity towards mainlanders is emphasized by SCMP from the take of Hong Kong locals. Social, cultural and economic reasons were provided to explain the divergence. The relationship among media framing, mediatization and culture conflict is revealed.

Academic research paper on topic "Framing IPhone Consumption by Chinese Mainlanders: Critical Discourse Analysis on News Coverage of China Daily and South China Morning Post"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 236 (2016) 39 - 45

International Conference on Communication in Multicultural Society, CMSC 2015, 6-8 December

2015, Moscow, Russian Federation

Framing IPhone consumption by Chinese mainlanders: critical discourse analysis on news coverage of China Daily and South

China Morning Post

Xuan Xie, Yi Ding*

Hong Kong Baptist University, CVA914, CVA Building, 5 Hereford Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong


Within the context of bilateral conflicts as constructed by media coverage, this project explored the framing of mainlander's IPhone consumption in Hong Kong by two local newspapers, China Daily and South China Morning Post (SCMP), through comparative discourse analysis and content analysis. It was found that China Daily showed less negative comments and derogatory remarks towards mainlanders. However, the animosity towards mainlanders is emphasized by SCMP from the take of Hong Kong locals. Social, cultural and economic reasons were provided to explain the divergence. The relationship among media framing, mediatization and culture conflict is revealed.

© 2016Publishedby ElsevierLtd. This isanopenaccess article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute). Keywords: IPhone consumption; comparative news analysis; framing theory; discourse analysis; content analysis

1. Introduction

The series of IPhone products have attracted the worldwide attention due to their creative design and hunger marketing strategies. With the increasing demand of new technology products from mainland market and the growing consuming capacity, mainland consumers have been playing major roles in the retail market in Hong Kong.

* Corresponding author. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute). doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.12.014

As a result of the advantaged free-tax policy and acceptable geographical distance, an increasing number of mainlanders visit Hong Kong to purchase IPhone products. Based on the bilateral business relationship of two areas in history, this should not be a social issue until the case is incorporated into the bilateral social conflicts such as resource contention (milk powder, hospital, working opportunities, property estate, etc.) and the identity conflict embedded in all problems.

Within the context of bilateral conflict, mainlanders' IPhone consumption in Hong Kong turns out to be one of the social issues reflected in media coverage. Images of mainland buyers and their consumption behavior have been pictured into different images by local newspapers. The various reports on IPhone consumption in Hong Kong also reflect different political standpoints and cultural perceptions towards people and related conflicts, as can be seen from a wide range of collective incidents against smugglers during recent years at various locations in Hong Kong.

Thus, this project tends to explore the framing of mainlander's IPhone consumption through the comparative critical discourse analysis of two Hong Kong-based newspapers, China Daily and South China Morning Post. Social, cultural and political implications of bilateral consumption will be discussed after the linguistic and discursive practices are identified.

2. Literature review

2.1. Mediatization and ISA

The concept of mediatization was firstly proposed by Likeker (2008) in his efforts to explicate the way of how media shapes and frames the processes and disclosure of political communication. It was first applicable in the field of political communication and then on other effects of media on politics (Kent Asp, 2010). Furthermore, Asp (2010) explains that politics are mediated when the mass media are the only source of political reality and assist people in constructing reality. This framework was also explicated by Mazzoleni and Schulz (1999) who argues that societies and institutions are shaped by or dependent on mass media.

The significant role of news media plays in shaping media also relates to Althusser's RSA and ISA. Drawing on the concept of state from Marxist theory, Althusser states that the ruling class repress the people by means of government police, courts, army jail, all of which serve the purpose of intervening and act in favor of ruling class by inflicting violent and coercive measures on the general public. On the other hand, the ideological state apparatus (ISA) in this case, news media impose ideology upon people, due to the reason that the existence of ideology does not exist in the form of ideas but is "inscribed in the actions of practices governed by rituals by any ideological apparatus" (Althusser, 1971, p.158). Therefore, the social and cultural practices of the discourse relating to the IPhone purchasing behaviors framed by the two newspaper is to be put under the microscope of ISA by Althusser in order to examine how Hong Kong people construct their identities in the process of mediatization.

2.2. Framing theory

Within the context of mediatization, media's framing is applicable in this project. As pointed out by Erving Goffman (1974), our life experiences are classified, organized and interpreted in the sense of meaning by ourselves. The possible frames, which can be labelled as "schemata of interpretation", assist people to identify, locate and label the information they receive and present. By analysing the production of news discourse in Student New Left movement, Gitlin (1980) illustrates that frames relate to the persistent selection and highlighting of information processed for the use of audience. Gamson (1987) interprets framing as the core idea of packaging information, through which possible devices such as metaphors, exemplars, catchphrases, depictions and visual images can be used to signify the frames and ideology embedded (Pan and Kosicki, 1993; Gamson and Modigliani, 1987).

Metaphorically, framing is similar to the process of focusing on part of the scene with the existing frame in photography. The same scene will be presented as different images when different shapes and materials of frames used for different angles.

The foregrounding of the controversial behaviors by local media in Hong Kong relates to the mediatization theory and framing theory. In this specific case, two major English Newspapers in Hong Kong, SCMP (South China

Morning Post) and China Daily (Hong Kong edition) will be discussed regarding how they are framed so as to examine its discursive practice and social and cultural implications at large.

2.3. IPhone fever in the context of bilateral consumption culture

The IPhone consumption craze in Hong Kong has been raising concerns from media and among consumers from both China and Hong Kong. It is foregrounded by the bilateral business and cultural conflicts between Hong Kong SAR and mainland China. The IPhone fever can be partly attributed to low tariff in Hong Kong, compared to mainland China, catalysed by the depreciation of HK dollars against RMB. Besides, the Hong Kong version of IPhone is more popular and there tend to be more supply than mainland when new products first came into market. Another factor that may contribute to the boom of IPhone market in Hong Kong is the availability of a more trustworthy shopping environment compared to mainland China where there is rule of law in placed and therefore there are reduced possibilities of purchasing knockoff commodities.

To explain how general situation or environment has facilitated the diffusion, Podolny (2001) pointed out market legitimizes the ideas by offering cross-market channel, making products and services more exchangeable, in a repeated manner, which is not difficult to understand in the broader social, political and economic contexts where the communication between Mainland China and Hong Kong engenders similar market and network, as Podolny (2001) has characterized. Echoed with the studies attributing the case to rapid economic power and social development in China (Chen, 1991; Song, 2004), the dissemination and adoption of related concepts or images also contributed to part of reality.

Based on this, this research will primarily examine the theoretical underpinnings behind the divergence in terms of the media coverage of IPhone consumption craze in Hong Kong by China Daily (Hong Kong edition) and SCMP due to the spike in the number of mainland tourists and smugglers paying their visits Hong Kong to purchase IPhones.

2.4. China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) and SCMP

As the satellite newspaper of national English-language China Daily, China Daily Hong Kong edition is the only English newspaper published by Chinese government in Hong Kong. Firstly published on October 6, 1997, it is staged as the authoritative representation of China and China's news to global readers with its in-depth reports of special focus on China.

Similarly as the readership of South China Morning Post, targeted audiences of China Daily are mainly "highlevel officials, diplomats, executives and academics" 1 in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and some Southeast-Asian countries.

With the authoritative report focusing on the elite group of readers of overseas Chinese, it can be referred that the description of mainland Chinese on both textual and discursive level will influence their readers' perception of mainlanders and their judgment on China in general. This justifies the further implications of case study on specific issue framed by China Daily Hong Kong edition.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) is a Hong Kong English language newspaper with a circulation of 104,000, founded in 1903, currently owned by Malaysian Tycoon Robert Kwok. In spite of the fact that the newspaper has a track record of having reported more controversial issues such as Tiananmen Square in 1989 and its anniversaries and criticized China's diplomatic policies and policies towards Hong Kong and Taiwan, there are emerging accusations against SCMP during the past few years after take over the newspaper by Kwok for its pro-china stance and self-censorship of news coverage unfavourable to China. The most famous incident amongst all is the dismissal of many editors and journalists during the reign of Robert Kwok.

Based on the abovementioned background and literatures, our research questions are: • RQ1: What are the differences in depiction of mainlander IPhone purchasers in two newspapers in this case?


• RQ2: What are the differences in issues framed in two newspapers in this case?

• RQ3: What are reasons and social implications for the framing of two newspapers in this case?

3. Methodology

3.1. Critical discourse analysis

Fairclough (1992) developed a three-dimensional model to view discourse as shown in the graph below. He claimed that each language use can be interpreted as a communication event consisting of text, discursive practice and social practice. Accordingly, the analysis should specify the linguistic features, process of production and consumption from the perspective of audience and wider social practice (Fairclough, 1992; Jorgensen and Phillips, 2011). Following this approach, the inter-textuality that realized by the reproduction and combination of discourses based on the internal relations among individual texts which forms a concrete meaning and bring influence on social world from these two English newspapers are going to be investigated.

As news article is a type of discourse as a genre, this project is to analyze the news articles of two newspapers. First of all, textual analysis is conducted to learn the depiction of mainland IPhone buyers in Hong Kong. Secondly, discursive analysis aimed to find out how two newspapers framed this issue differently; and social implications related to news discourse under the microscope of mediatization and framing theories will be discussed as well.

3.2. Sampling method

As a key product of Apple, the first IPhone was launched onto market in June 29, 2007. However, as the fever for IPhone was promoted and noticed especially after IPhone 4S, which first came to market on June 24, 2010, and also due to the 5-year limit of news search engine Wisenews, the range of news search starts from April 10, 2010 to April 10, 2015.

"Hong Kong", "mainland", and "IPhone" were set as key words for news searching in this study. Considering the articles in the column of "Comment" or "Opinion" are quite personal for the analysis, only those regular news reports will be taken into consideration.

With the assistance of Wisenews search engine, it was found that there were 116 pieces of news coverage containing these key words while the earliest report from China Daily appeared since July 26, 2010. Among all, articles with specific focus on mainlander's phone purchase in Hong Kong are set as key articles for further analysis.

A total of 108 sampled articles of SCMP have been examined by using SCMP news index on SCMP websites, where the comments and opinions have been excluded, with the focus on the description or characterization of

mainlander tourists who purchase iPhones and smugglers. More specifically, the keywords, such as "Mainland", "iPhones", "Hong Kong" were extensively searched, and due to the lack of advanced search feature on the SCMP index, the search was labour intensive. In content analysis, a similar coding scheme is used counting the total number of naming of consumers, characterization of consumers' behaviors, naming of dealers, and characterization of dealers and their derivatives in expressions.

4. Main findings

4.1. China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) 4.1.1. Depiction of mainlanders

The IPhone purchase in Hong Kong by mainlanders has been described through different lexical choices. The case has also been framed into various themes as well after the coding.

Among all the news coverage of China Daily (Hong Kong edition), mainland buyers of IPhone products in Hong Kong were divided into two groups, ordinary consumers buying for individual use and deals buying for business.

Consumers were named as mainland people, Chinese mainland and Chinese buyers mainly in the reports while dealers are named as speculators, I-smugglers, local scalpers and private dealers.

As for the IPhone purchase behaviors by mainlanders, some articles from People's Daily (Hong Kong Version) focus on the passionate waiting and long queue for the newly launched products. The main reasons for buying IPhones can be categorized as their price advantage and symbols of wealth for the rich and privileged, particularly in second or third tier cities. However, there are also different reasons underlying most mainlanders' IPhone purchasing behaviors such as the increasing interest people take in exotic shopping experiences instead of luxury consumption only. "Smuggle", "strapped" and "apprehended" were used to describe dealers' behaviors. The following table has enlisted the names used by China Daily to refer to the two different types of consumers purchasing IPhones and their respective behaviors as framed by the articles extracted from China Daily (Hong Kong Edition).

Table 1. Referents to consumers and descriptive behaviors.

Referent to consumers Descriptive behaviors

Mainland people Price differences

Chinese mainland Travel abroad at high frequency

Chinese buyers Acquiring exotic shopping experiences instead of only

purchasing luxury commodities

Symbols of wealth of the rich and privileged in smaller cities

Take five-day off to queue

Referent to dealers Descriptive behaviors

Speculator Smuggle

I-smuggler Sizzling order

Smuggle with baby Strapped

Local scalpers Apprehended

Private dealers

4.1.2. Other primary concerns

With the focus of IPhone, articles on China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) were framed so as to focus on such issues as manufacture, mainland market, information security and situation of retail shops. More specifically, the discourse can be packaged into four themes as follows: Local manufacturers were described as being less irreplaceable despite

taking pride in involving low-costs in production. Apple products also encountered fierce competition with newly developed local vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei and thereby lose part of their market. Apple retail stores were pictured as providing well-decorated and comfortable working situation for office workers. Through the description of poor information security situation discussed during the CEO's visit to mainland, the report labelled China as "a major victim of cyber-attacks" and stated the attitude as the country opposed all hacking activities (see Last but not least, the IPhone craze and its purchases by mainlanders falling into different categories are framed as the ensured resources of tourism during protests and collective incidents so that the local tourism market is able to function as it was.

Table 2. Themes and specifics.

Themes Specifics/Sub-themes

Manufacture Scandal of Foxconn

Lacking irreplaceable position

Low costs

Apple's market share in China A niche player in Chinese market, when compared with other local


Information security China is a major victim of "cyber-attacks" and opposes any sort of

hacking activities

Retail shop World's first "Briefing Room": office workers can enjoy free

business workshops

Unbreakable glass structure (high cost)

Tourism Offering some additional support (offsetting the negative influence

on local tourism market due to protests and other collective


4.2. South China Morning Post (SCMP)

The textual level analysis shows that in spite of the fact that over the past few years, even though accusations against SCMP's pro-china editorials and reports and its wrongful dismissal of reporters who are critical of China, there tends to be higher frequency of using more hostile wordings against mainland IPhone purchasers of both types, as more referents such as speculators or I-smugglers are more oftener used compared to the articles from China Daily (Hong Kong Edition).

It is also worth noting that much more aggressive or derogatory wordings such as "locusts" and so forth. From what seems like from the textual level analysis, there is more focus on the issue in HK or from the perspective in HK, as opposed to China as a whole, as there tends to be more reference to Hong Kong than China when it comes to the issue in question.

5. Discussion and analysis

As illustrated in the issues and depiction, China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) tends to have less negative comments towards the behaviours unless there is no other alternatives but to use more neutral ones such as "I-smugglers" and "apprehended", but with less animosity and low frequency in using derogatory remarks towards mainlanders.

Discourses are always socially, politically, racially and economically loaded (Rogers, 2004). On discursive level, different versions of inter-textual texts can be observed particularly in the different production conditions and content transformation (Fairclough, 1995). Through the analysis of news articles of China Daily (Hong Kong Edition), the decreased passion for IPhone of mainlanders were described as resulting from better living standards. Proliferation of Chinese local market was framed as one major factor that leads to the dwindling passion towards purchasing IPhone in Hong Kong as well. Weakness of Chinese governance were also framed as being attributed to external reasons imposed on China as opposed to China's own problems.

On the level of social practice, both of these articles reflect the reality that Apple has a huge market in mainland China, but the major advantage is reduced gradually as the local smartphone market is also undergoing rapid expansion in the meantime. Fewer rich people in second or third tier cities tend to take IPhones as symbols of their wealth.

As far as South China Morning Post (SCMP) is concerned in this case, from the discursive level analysis, it can be drawn that hostility towards mainlanders are further foregrounded, and in the meantime, the animosity by Hong Kong locals towards mainlanders are also highlighted. The more frequent reference to Hong Kong than China underscores the indifference to the status quo in Mainland China by its editors, and more emphasis is placed on the issue from the perspective of Hong Kong locals. On the discursive level, the intertextual differences and the discrepancy of how the same behaviours by mainlanders are framed between the two newspapers pinpoint to the variations in production conditions and content transformation, as depicted by Fairclough (1995), in order to identify the ideological differences as reflected in the different ideological packages demonstrated in the two different English newspapers based in Hong Kong.

6. Conclusion

In general, according to the analysis of news articles from China Daily (Hong Kong Edition), Apple takes the Chinese market seriously through large amount of money input. However, the general consuming capacity of mainlanders increased as the market of local products also attracted people's attention. This shows a moderate attitude towards Apple and buyers as well. In other words, the majority of reports tend to show up China's generated power when illustrating the issue and frame a more positive image of this country and its people.

The divergence of the two English newspapers based in Hong Kong regarding the media framing or characterization on a phenomenon is based on several major reasons based on a close analysis: self-censorship of the two newspapers, the political stances of the owners, the motivations to increase marketing profitability in order to accommodate the local market. As demonstrated in the discursive practices and their social and cultural implications, there is a growing trend that newspapers have been becoming more biased based on their ideology behind their framing practices and mediatization process. The limitation of the study lies in the fact that the production process of the articles and the ideological packages embedded in their discursive practices from both newspapers are hard to be identified, in the absence of other empirical data other than the linguistic and discursive practices as demonstrated from the data. Therefore, further studies will be needed by triangulating the data from critical discourse analysis on these two newspapers with the interviews of their editors and other archives in an endeavour to arrive at more validated conclusion regarding the social, political and cultural practices. In this way, the production process and the ideological packages as the result of framing of the topics in question can be further identified and validated.


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