In recent years, a proliferation of foreign policy analysis scholarship on decision-makers’ mental maps and similar notions has reintroduced the topic into the core of the broader IR research agenda. This literature has generally focused on broader theoretical advancements in how mental maps are constructed and consolidated, and it generally uses Western countries as bottom-line case studies. This paper aims at contributing to this academic discussion by examining the mental maps of the major Chinese foreign policy decision-makers in relation to the Mediterranean region, also alternatively referred as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Through critical discourse analysis techniques, it analyses 54 different primary sources by the Chinese government (official policy documents, public speeches and interviews by the Presidency of the People’s Republic of China and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs) dealing with the reality labelled by the European Union as the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEM) countries – or simply, the Mediterranean. All documents correspond to the period of Xi Jinping’s presidency (2013 onwards) and therefore the conclusions reached should be valid for current Chinese foreign policy.
Approaching Mental Maps through Critical Discourse Analysis: Theoretical Starting Point
Mental Maps of the Leadership of the People’s Republic of China towards the Middle East and North Africa: Overlapping Geopolitical Cartographies
2. The “Middle East” and Its “Hotspots”: The Centrality of Security, Peace and Stability
3. The “Belt and Road” Initiative: Signifiers around the Eurasian Mental Map
4. Alternative Geopolitical Cartographies: Developing Countries, African Countries and Civilizations
5. Final Remarks: Confronting China’s and the European Union’s Geopolitical Cartographies and Discursive Constructions of the Mediterranean
Chinese Primary Sources