Representing Chinese Women: A discourse analysis of media commentary on the International Women’s Day from People’s Daily 1950-2019


The International Women’s Day (March 8), established to commemorate women’s contribution to society while consolidating women from around the world via collective agendas, has been celebrated in China since 1924. From the communication perspective, the International Women’s Day is also the time of the year when various discursive structures of women rise and congregate.

This study examines the particular discursive structure derived from and perpetuated by China’s State authority through Chinese mainstream media People’s Daily since the founding of new China. This study, via a discourse analysis of over 70 years of media text on this special day, explores how such discourses form into normative ideologies for understanding women and their roles in society.

Media texts are never the mere value-free reflection of “facts” (Fowler, 1991). They are representations of a world in which political, economic, and cultural forces form into frameworks of ideologies that structure and guide interpretations of social reality. The first part of this paper begins with a synthesis of media construction of gender. We then heighten the characteristics of political-media discourses on gender in China. Adopting the framework of critical discourse analysis, the findings connect gender discourses to the unique trajectory of social development of China in the past seven decades, for which different historical periods embrace different sets of themes and ideologies that, together, enable understanding of Chinese women on a continuum.