The Face of a Green Leader? Analysing Xi Jinping’s Ideological Legitimation Strategies in Speeches to Domestic and International Audiences
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Ideology is not often credited in analyses of leadership legitimation. Whether they be democratic or autocratic, a president’s legitimacy is commonly attributed primarily to their performance. In the case of Chinese president Xi Jinping, however, ideology’s relevance should not be underestimated: with the publication of Xi Jinping Thought in 2017, he further validates comparisons between his and Mao Zedong’s ideological and propagandistic styles and the continued relevance of ideology in Chinese politics. This thesis investigates the role of ideology in Xi’s presidential legitimation, focusing specifically on green leadership: through comparative critical discourse analyses between general and environmental elements of his domestic and international speeches, it studies which legitimating strategies are employed and what these say about Xi’s leadership identity. Using different strategic narratives towards different audiences, Xi’s speeches reveal two overarching yet increasingly assertive ideological legitimation strategies: stressing his role as the nation’s ideological father domestically, whilst internationally emphasising his role as leader of the developing countries and alternative to the United States’ leadership. This international role bleeds into his approach to environmental governance, for which Xi similarly promotes his environmental ideology from a position of opposition to the developed countries.
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