British Journal of Chinese Studies

dragon mural beijing 2018 copyright Gerda Wielander
Vol 9 No 2 (2019)

The Ideological Function of “Positive Energy” Discourse: A People’s Daily Analysis

Francesca Triggs
Image shows book cover of a volume entitled Zhengnengliang; it is a training volume for CCP cadres.
Published July 27, 2019
How to Cite
Triggs, F. (2019). The Ideological Function of “Positive Energy” Discourse: A People’s Daily Analysis. British Journal of Chinese Studies, 9(2), 83-112.


Following its emergence as a popular social byword, in 2012 the term “positive energy” was adopted into frequent usage in Chinese political discourse. Previous studies have analysed the term’s usage in a social context alongside a growing interest in positive psychology, resulting in a portrayal of its main function as that of spreading hope and optimism in the face of challenges. This study now seeks to understand the ideological function the term has served in the political sphere, arguing for a deeper understanding of positive energy discourse within a Gramscian framework of political consensus-building, aimed at reinforcing CCP hegemony. This is shown through an exploratory analysis of People’s Daily Online articles inspired by framing and content-analysis theory, which considers the thematic components, sub-frame problems and actors of the term since the beginning of Xi Jinping’s time in power. The results of this analysis reveal four key trends. These are a focus on challenges which undermine Party dominance; an emphasis on ideas of social responsibility, and communality of interest between the state and the people; a promotion of moral action a grassroots level; and the advocation of state authority over the Internet. The results demonstrate how positive energy discourse has encouraged a popular consensus around CCP hegemony, creating a Gramscian “common sense” due to its grassroots origins, association with an increasingly popular positive psychology movement, and in-built connotations of happiness.

  • Gramsci,
  • People's Daily,
  • hegemony,
  • consensus building,
  • framing theory,
  • positive energy,
  • zhengnengliang
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