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Narrative Framing and the United States’ Threat Construction of Rivals
2020-09-14 11:38:00

The Chinese Journal of International Politics
Volume 13, Issue 3, Autumn 2020, Pages 419–453, https://doi.org/10.1093/cjip/poaa008
Published: 10 July 2020

Narrative Framing and the United States’Threat Construction of Rivals

Zhengqing Yuan, Qiang Fu


Abstract

Constructing a credible foreign threat is a key activity in the US national security community. By adopting a narrative approach to threat formation, we attempt to delineate the contours of the Soviet Union, Japan, and China in the US threat discourse spectrum. The Soviet threat is constructed through a story of two ideologically opposed rivals competing for world domination and the Japan-bashing narrative is of victimisation due to Japan’s unfair competition. China threat stories, however, are now more complex, conflating a story of US victimhood at the hands of China’s unfair competition, advocated by President Trump, with a widely embedded but malleable epic tale of power competition between a rising power and the ruling power, and a new Cold War script propagated by the 'deep state' hawks. We have found that as long as a country may potentially threaten the United States’ hegemonic identity, be it a formidable power with an antagonistic outlook like the Soviet Union, an ally from inside like Japan, or a rising peer competitor like China, the United States will invariably construct a diametrical self-other story in a zero-sum mindset and resort relentlessly to its superior Self while customising its threat story scripts in accordance with the rival’s characteristics and dimensions of challenges.


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