Framing EU–China Trade Relations: A Content Analysis of UK Newspaper Coverage (2001–2021)

Xiaoyang Zhao*, Knut De Swert, Mark Boukes, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The debate over China’s economic influence on the European Union has grown prominent on both political and media agendas. However, little is known about how the UK media have framed EU–China trade relations in the past two decades. This case study employs a manual quantitative content analysis to investigate trends over time in the presence of frames and tone in UK newspaper coverage of EU–China trade relations (2001–2021) and to further explore differences between newspaper types in their portrayal of this topic (N = 600). Popular newspapers paid much less attention to EU–China trade relations than financial and quality newspapers but featured the most negative tone. Significant frame variation was detected over time and across newspapers, with the risk frame being the most visible. We also identified a significant negative correlation between tone and various frames. The findings not only contribute to existing economic news research by expanding on the theories of framing, negativity bias, and economic newsworthiness in the context of international trade relations but also carry implications for policy-makers and journalists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1918-1936
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number15
Early online date29 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2023


  • economic news
  • EU–China trade relations
  • financial vs. quality vs. popular
  • framing
  • negativity bias
  • quantitative content analysis


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