The leader and the people Shifting boundaries in Chinese populist discourse

Evangelos Fanoulis*, Alessandra Cappelletti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the shifting boundaries in populist discourses in China, with a focus on how the political leader’s discourse socially constructs the people. By combining critical and post-structuralist discourse analysis, we argue firstly that prevalent Western-centric approaches to the study of populism only partially capture the notion of the people in contemporary China, the study of which requires a mixture of elements from these approaches. Secondly, that the image of a Chinese people embracing the Chinese Dream and the promise for a New China, is narrated in a context where the Chinese Communist Party infuses all levels of society with messages of development, prosperity, peace and freedom. And thirdly, that while previous leaders would normally address the people in a formal and detached way, the distance between leadership and the people has been reduced in the Xi Jinping era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-533
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Language and Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • Chinese Communist Party
  • Xi Jinping
  • discourse analysis
  • populism
  • unity in diversity


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