Purpose: This study explores the dual ideological influences that the socialist political regime and the globalised market economy have on the visual images in accounting annual reports in the Chinese context. It also investigates how the visual discourse, in turn, constitutes and sustains competing ideological messages.
Design/Methodology/approach: Based on the 2010 annual report of China Mobile Limited, A critical discourse analysis is conducted at three levels. At the public discourse level, three areas of interest are drawn in interpreting the connotations of the visual discourse, including (1) Davison’s (2010) rhetorical codes (physical, dress, spatial, and interpersonal); (2) two Chinese cultural beliefs (Confucianism and Taoism); and, (3) the socio-political cognition of colour. At the social practice level, the political and financial structure of China Mobile is examined. Finally, the discourse practice analysis investigates the discursive process in which the annual report is produced, distributed and consumed by different reader groups.
Findings: The study finds that visual discourse in annual reports constitutes and sustains competing ideological messages. The competing connotations are then mediated and naturalised through juxtaposing image with different context in which the annual report is put forward.
Originality/value: The application of Critical Discourse Analysis provides a useful framework for future studies of visual images in annual reports. The conflation of Davison’s (2010) rhetorical codes, the Chinese cultural beliefs, and the cognition of colour adds to the understanding of the socio-political significance of visual discourse in accounting.