A critical discourse analysis of women’s roles as mistresses in Chinese corruption news coverage


  • Yiyan Li University of Saskatchewan




Critical Discourse Analysis; Mistress; Corruption; China; Woman


The terms ‘mistress’ or ‘second wife’, translated as qingfu, ernai, xiaosan, have become widely used in Chinese media in recent years. This study employs critical discourse analysis to examine how the mistress/second wife is represented in Chinese corruption news coverage. In particular, this paper analyses thirty seven articles focusing on cadre-mistress relationships that were published on mainstream commercial websites (Ifeng, NetEase, Sina, and Sohu) between 2013 and 2017. The findings of this analysis show that the framing of the mistresses/second wives in these articles follows media censorship and selectively appeals to the public’s negative perception of them. Specifically, the findings reveal that mistresses of corrupt male cadres are afforded no respect in corruption news coverage, and are instead portrayed as ‘toys’ of the cadres who are ‘partners’ in their corruption. Furthermore, this paper’s analysis of the sociocultural context that gives rise to such discourses demonstrates the key role played by social inequalities and gender inequalities in the post-reform era. This study contributes to the literature by illustrating how mistress–cadre relationships are governed by gender inequalities in job opportunities, career development, and income levels, social inequalities in the distribution of wealth and resources, and cultural norms relating to discrimination against concubines. Thus, such relationships cannot be eliminated via public censure.

Author Biography

Yiyan Li, University of Saskatchewan

Yiyan Li earned her doctoral degree at the Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan. She has published papers related to gender representation in Chinese news coverage, Canadian immigrants’ well-being and substance use among different populations. Her areas of interest include gender, media, immigration, public health and substance use.


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How to Cite

Li, Y. (2021). A critical discourse analysis of women’s roles as mistresses in Chinese corruption news coverage. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 5(1), 5–27. https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.17993