Abstract: This paper applies corpus techniques of linguistic discourse analysis to an examination of the Chinese government-owned English-language newspaper the China Daily. The aim is to look for evidence of change over the last decade in the way the deontic modal language of power, obligation and permission―expressions such as ‘you must do such-and-such’ and ‘you should/may do so-and-so’―is associated in the newspaper with Chinese establishment/authority figures. The study compares two corpora of 50 China Daily texts―one selected from 1998, one from 2010―to look for evidence of change in the way such deontic modal language is used, and seeks to interpret this evidence in the context of China’s changing social, political and media culture. The study focuses on modality found in the context of what William Labov (1972) labelled ‘evaluation’―an aspect of the narrative structure of text revealing the relationship between narrator and audience.
Keywords: China, media, censorship, power, modality, evaluation, discourse analysis