"Choppy Japanese": dramatic journalistic prose
How a journalist achieves impact by reversing the normal order of clauses (plus a look at adnominal clauses)
22 April 2016 (last major update Feb 2020)
On 13 April 2016 Nihon Keizai Shinbun ran a piece on the impact of the Panama Papers in China, entitled 「パナマ文書」考 租税回避地の闇が動かす中国の権力闘争 (roughly, "Thoughts on the Panama Papers: How the scandal of tax havens moves China's power struggle"). It was authored by Nakazawa Katsuji (中澤克二), a member of the paper's editorial board.
The piece embodies a (relatively) recent trend in Japanese journalese that departs from older journalistic conventions, producing a hard-hitting but choppy style. On the other hand, it also makes liberal use of adnominal clauses, equivalent to English relative clauses, as important ways of adding important information.
Japanese writing, including journalistic prose, traditionally relies on a number of devices that can easily result in rather long sentences.
- Clause-linking -て -te forms and ren'yokei (連用形 ren'yōkei) allow long concatenations of clauses to be created, a feature that has been particularly exploited in academic and bureaucratic prose.
- Since Japanese is a left-branching language, clauses relating to time, cause, and background situation, etc., always precede the main clause, which is pushed to the end of the sequence.
- Adnominal clauses (連体修飾節 rentai-shūshoku-setsu), largely equivalent to relative clauses in English, always precede the noun and allow considerable explanatory material to be inserted at an early stage in the sentence.
As a result the reader may have to wade through a certain amount of background information before finally arriving at the main point of a sentence. The tone of the sentence tends to be modulated through final verbs and modal expressions.
Nakazawa's piece, an analytical rather than straight reporting piece, differs markedly from such traditional journalistic styles in both grammar and impact. It has a striking predilection for short sentences — sometimes just a single clause — as bald, unmodulated assertions.
Such assertions are then followed up with expansions, explanations, or justifications. As a result, the syntax of sentences tends to be fractured when compared with conventional styles of Japanese prose.
While Nakazawa makes extensive reference to events, he does not use a straight narrative. Instead, he orders events into a series of dramatic situations, acting as mises-en-scène, which are developed in followup sentences. The risk of confusion in background and chronology is lessened through the judicious use of verb tenses and other devices.
The result of this is a hard-hitting but very "choppy" style of prose. It is reminiscent of the dramatic language of video or television documentaries, with strong, attention-getting statements playing out against a clear visual background. The difference here, of course, is that the passage does not have a clear visual background.
Some grammatical features of this style are:
1) Short, decisive sentences are preferred; long concatenations of clauses are avoided. Sentence-linking -て -te forms and ren'yokei (連用形 ren'yōkei) are used sparingly.
2) Unlike conventional prose, supporting clauses (subordinate clauses, etc.) are often placed after core statements in followup sentences or sentence fragments.
3) In common with earlier journalistic prose, sentence-final copulas like だ da are omitted for effect ('noun-stopped sentences').
However, the style continues to exploit the potential of adnominal clauses to provide background information and help advance the narrative. Adnominal clauses provide indispensable detail, and at times cannot be omitted without losing the sense of the passage.
Here I want to go through Nakazawa's piece to see what makes it tick, starting with the dramatic presentation that results in the characteristic choppy style.
Part 1: 'Hard-hitting' style
Opening: Nakazawa doesn't beat around the bush. He starts with an arresting general characterisation of Chinese power struggles:
These two sentences illustrate a fundamental principle of this style of writing: make a simple, bold statement, then use a separate sentence to give an equally bold reason.
Grammatically, the use of ...では de wa makes 'in Chinese power struggles' into the topic of the first sentence. The verb, 演じられる enjirareru 'be played out' (in the present tense) states a generalisation. It is in the passive voice.
The second sentence presents the perceived reason for this situation. It ends in the dogmatic locution ためだ tame da 'it's because'.
In more sober Japanese, the two sentences could easily be lumped together:
Attōteki tasū no kokka ga saiyō suru senkyo to yū minshuteki de kōsei na shudan ga nai tame, Chūgoku no kenryoku tōsō de wa, naibu de seishi o kaketa doro-jiai ga enjirareru.
'Because it lacks the democratic, fair means known as elections adopted by the overwhelming majority of countries, in Chinese power struggles a mudslinging contest is played out internally in which life and death are at stake.'
The combined sentences read relatively smoothly and give an impression of reason. The effect is very different from Nakazawa's dramatic opening.
Bridge to main topic: The next sentence introduces the case of Zhou Yongkang as exemplifying the author's contention:
Since the example is drawn from the past, the sentence is in past tense (だった datta 'was').
Development: The passage then introduces the 'weapons' used in this struggle. This is split into two sentences. The first is a dramatic-sounding sentence type known in Japanese as 'noun-stopped' (体言止め taigen-dome); the second is little more than a fragment:
In the first sentence, だった datta 'was' is omitted after 蓄財疑惑 chikuzai giwaku 'wealth-amassing scandal', giving the sentence an impressive, authoritative tone. The time frame is still the past, as seen in 当時の首相 tōji no shushō 'the Premier of the time'.
The sentence that follows it, introduced by そして soshite 'and', is a sentence fragment. It looks like it has been tacked on as an afterthought, chopping the prose into 'sound-bites' and adding to the drama. Curiously, the verb here is in the present tense, だ da 'is'. By using the present tense, the author identifies this not as an event in the chronology but as one of a list of issues forming part of his argument.
The separation into two parts gives the order in which they will be covered in the article. Wen Jiabao's family wealth is treated first, followed by Xi Jinping's family wealth.
In a more 'temperate' presentation, the two sentences could be combined to read:
Tatakai no buki wa, tōji no shushō, On Kahō no shinzoku o meguru kyogaku no chikuzai giwaku, toppu e no shuunin ga kimatte ita Shū Kinpei no shinzoku no shisan mondai nado datta
'The weapon of the struggle was the suspicion concerning the amassing of huge wealth by relatives of the Premier of the time, Wen Jiabao, the issue of assets of relatives of Xi Jinping, whose accession to the top had been decided, etc.'
Continued development: In the next sentence, the author succinctly encapsulates his argument that the value of information is primarily political:
Grammatically, this sentence follows the same pattern as the very first sentence: xxxでは xxx de wa 'in xxx' plus a closing passive. The sentence represents an expansion of Nakazawa's original general statement and sets the stage for the further exposition of his point.
Tie-in: But first, Nakazawa ties tax havens into his argument in two short sentences:
ここに koko ni 'here' refers to the situation already introduced, namely, the issue of wealth accumulation and the use of information for political purposes. The issue of tax havens is described as 'latching in' (絡む karamu) here.
The second sentence notes that the Panama Papers have refocused attention on this issue.
Role of the Panama Papers: Nakazawa then ties these threads together in another sweeping sentence:
This statement places tax havens squarely at the centre of Chinese information wars. It is in the present tense, affirming the vital importance that this issue holds in the present.
Narrative (1): Having delivered this judgement, Nakazawa goes back to Zhou Yongkang and outlines a dramatic but 'jumpy' outline of events. Instead of a straight narrative ('this happened and then this happened'), Nakazawa presents a sequence of 'situations'. This style of presentation can easily give rise to factual and chronological confusion. Verb tenses are critical:
The sentences are dramatic and attention grabbing. The first sentence in this mise-en-scène uses the past tense (握っていた nigitte ita 'was holding') and presents a state ('he held power'), not an action ('he took hold of power').
The next sentence, even briefer, tells us that despite his grip on this key power, Zhou was already in the sights of the central leadership. In a form similar to 'noun-stopping', the verb 断罪する danzai suru 'condemn' is truncated and lacks tense marking. From the context, it should be 断罪していた danzai shite ita 'had condemned' (referring to a past action and the resulting state — that of having been condemned) or 断罪した danzai shita 'condemned' (a simple action by the central leadership).
The sentence that follows, in the past tense, illustrates and amplifies the leadership's decision on Zhou Yongkang, that is, life imprisonment for corruption and security breaches.
It would be quite possible to link the all three sentences together. For example:
Shū Eikō wa kyōsantō chūō seihō iinkai shoki to shite kōan (keisatsu), busō keisatsu o ugokasu kenryoku o itte ni nigitte ita ga Shū shidōbu wa sude ni Shū Eikō o danzai shi, oshoku ya kimitsu rōei no tsumi de muki chōeki o kakutei shite ita.
'Zhou Yongkang, as secretary to the central political committee of the Communist Party, had sole authority to move Public Security (the police) and the Armed Police, but the Xi leadership had already condemned Zhou Yongkang, confirming life imprisonment on charges of corruption and leakage of secrets.'
Other arrangements are also possible. What is clear is that Nakazawa's dramatic style leads him to present the situation in three sharp, short sentences. The result is to cut connections between sentences, almost to the point of incongruity. Drama takes precedence over sense.
Narrative (2): The situation having been set, the article outlines events. Each sentence, presented in as dramatic a form as possible, resists integration into a smooth narrative.
The first sentence relates Zhou's actions. It uses 当時 tōji 'at that time' to isolate the sentence from the previous one in a way similar to using 'meanwhile' in English. It represents a new point in the sequence of events.
Unusually for this passage, the sentence uses the て -te form and the 連用形 ren'yōkei, both of which are used to run clauses together. Here, they link the three actions into a tight chain: abuse of power = phone tapping = collection of secret information.
The follow-on sentence, a brief one, gives an explanation for his collection of secret information, one of preparing for a time when he would need it. のだ noda is a sentence-ending form indicating that this is an explanation for what was related in the preceding sentence.
Through this somewhat disjoined narration of events Nakazawa is leading us back to the point of the article: information as a weapon in the wars among the leadership.
Narrative (3): The next two sentences present Zhou Yongkang's intentions:
The two sentences explain the steps of Zhou's plan and are semantically closely interrelated, but they are grammatically curious.
The first sentence uses the present tense. This does not indicate an action in the present. It is a disembodied exposition of Zhou's intentions, the kind of present tense used in instructions or recipes, explaining in discrete steps what should be done. The effect is a blunt and dramatic presentation of Zhou's intentions.
The second sentence, prefaced by そして soshite 'and', refers to the possibility of an even grander aim — challenging the leadership of Xi. This sentence spells out that these are Zhou's intentions by ending in 狙いもあったとされる nerai mo atta to sareru 'it is said that he also had the aim of ...' but presents it in a more speculative way. This involves two elements: the ending 狙いもあった nerai mo atta 'also had the aim of...' posits this as Zhou's aim; とされる to sareru 'it is said' indicates that this is not the author's own views but views heard from other people.
Narrative (4): The next sentences quite suddenly move the story along to the spring of 2012 in a new mise-en-scène:
The first sentence presents Zhou's state of mind at the time. Note that the use of ていた -te ita indicates a state or situation ('be in a panic'), not an action ('fall into panic').
The second sentence relates actions (using past tense) with an explanation using のだ noda. Zhou is panicking because, in addition to Bo Xilai's people, people privy to his own secrets are also being arrested.
Three short, sharp sentences then indicate Zhou's reaction to the situation.
The first sentence is virtually a thought-bubble, purporting to represent Zhou's thoughts in real time. Since it represents exactly what Zhou is thinking, it is in the present tense. This is a dramatic flourish.
The second sentence takes one step back: it presents Zhou's thoughts in present tense, indicating his intentions at the time. This is similar to the way that Zhou's plans to set up a regency were presented earlier in the disembodied manner of a recipe or instruction.
The third sentence, 乾坤一擲の反撃だった kenkon itteki no hangeki datta 'It was a counterattack staking everything', reverts completely to the narrator's perspective, presenting the narrator's judgement of the situation. Since it is a judgement made from a present perspective, the tense also shifts to the past.
This shifting perspective, at times taking the point of view of Zhou himself, at times presenting his actions from the outside, results in a vivid narrative.
Comment: This is followed by an analysis of Zhou's tactics by using a quote from someone familiar with the situation. In the interest of greater impact, Nakazawa presents the quotation first, followed by an explanation of who was behind it:
The quote is in the past tense as it purports to present the source's narrative. Unlike in English, however, Japanese direct quotes are not expected to be faithful. The author is simply summing up what the source said. The noun-stopped form in the second sentence (最初の標的は温家宝 Saisho no hyōteki wa On Kahō 'The first target (was) Wen Jiabao'), omitting the verb だった datta 'was', belongs to the author's dramatic style and is unlikely to represent the actual words of the source.
Narrative (5): The next five sentences describe Wen Jiabao's criticism and Zhou's counterattack.
First, there is background: Wen's criticism of Bo Xilai in March 2012, prior to Bo's downfall. The tense, -ていた -te ita, equivalent to English 'had been', indicates that this already lies in the past vis-à-vis Zhou's attack.
This is followed by an explanation of the situation and events that unfolded.
The second sentence in the paragraph describes the nature of the scandal surrounding Wen Jiabao's family, the existence of as much as 27 billion dollars of amassed assets. It takes the form of a simple 'noun + copula + noun' type of sentence. The first noun (疑惑 giwaku 'scandal') is followed by とは to wa. This indicates that 不透明な蓄財の存在 futōmei na chikuzai no sonzai 'the existence of ... unclear amassed assets' is an explanation of what the 疑惑 giwaku 'scandal' is. It is in the present tense since the sentence is intended only as an explanation, removed from the flow of events.
The third and fourth sentences relate how information concerning this scandal was disseminated. The third sentence, uses the past tense and begins with 当時 tōji 'at the time' to indicate a return to the narrative.
The final sentence indicates the result of this campaign: Wen Jiabao's reputation was instantly ruined.
Commentary: The next two sentences represent Nakazawa's commentary on the situation, developing his theme of the use of information as a weapon:
Both sentences use nouns followed by the verb 'to be' (である de aru 'is' and だった datta 'was'). Both sentences are presented in a forceful fashion.
Development of theme: Nakazawa then goes into the characteristics of this information war in more detail. His statements are bold but somewhat disconnected:
The first sentence, in the past tense, sums up the point of the paragraph: the way that the information released was skewed.
The next sentence, noting that there was nothing relating to Zhou Yongkang himself, is boldly stated in the present tense in order to make the narrative more vivid. The sentence that follows it, noting the similar absence of information about Jiang Zemin, slips back to the past tense.
The most interesting feature is the last sentence, a sentence fragment — 多くの中国指導者らの親族が大筋、似た蓄財をしているにもかかわらず Ōku no chūgoku shidōsha-ra no shinzoku ga ōsuji, nita chikuzai o shite iru ni mo kakawarazu 'Even though the relatives of many Chinese leaders are largely amassing similar wealth'. This is a common enough style of expression which here acts as a comment on the issue of the skewed release of information. Grammatically it somewhat resembles the English expression, "As if I would do something like that", which, despite being a subordinate clause, does not actually have a main clause. Therefore, it would be awkward to try to piece the sentence back together as follows:
Ōku no chūgoku shidōsha-ra no shinzoku ga ōsuji, nita chikuzai o shite iru ni mo kakawarazu, Shū Eikō ni kansuru kijutsu ga naku, kare no ushiro-date datta moto kokka shuseki, Kō Takumin no shinzoku ni karamu jōhō mo nakatta.
'Even though the relatives of many Chinese leaders are largely amassing similar wealth, there was nothing referring to Zhou Yongkang, and also no information relating to the relatives of the former national chairman, Jiang Zemin, who was his backer'.
This detached construction is a perfect match for this kind of text since it allows the author to comment on the preceding statements.
Nakazawa continues in this vein for many more paragraphs. The continuation is here.
Summing up: This approach, which departs from traditional and grammatically more natural prose styles, serves to make analytical pieces such as this more interesting and appealing to ordinary readers. It means that, if anything, even the sober Nihon Keizai Shinbun has become more 'tabloid' in its approach to journalism. It appears likely that this approach has been inspired by journalistic practice in English, which similarly tends to place important or sensationalist information up front and relegate 'boring' background information to the end. (See this brief note on journalistic style in English.)
However, despite a tendency to replace explanatory adnominal clauses with sentences and fragments that come after the main sentence, it continues to rely heavily on adnominal clauses as a device for inserting information.
Part 2: Use of adnominal clauses
Adnominal clauses (rentai-shūshoku-setsu) are commonly used in Japanese prose to provide essential detail and to help move the story along.
In her article on Grammar and Semantics of Adnominal Clauses in Japanese (1989) Yoshiko Matsumoto points to Meikaku de ronriteki na nihongo no hyoogen (Inoue et al (1985)), which conjectures that the relative clause construction is useful in "packaging" a message into a short space, so as not to distract attention from the main part of the sentence.
- Their analysis also agrees with my own observations that clausal noun modification is especially common in broadcast news, on dust-jackets of books, etc., where information has to be condensed and the most crucial part highlighted. I have suggested that this characteristic can be exploited to include, surreptitiously, even (new and) important information in a modifying clause...
Matsumoto's observation is borne out by the passage from Nakazawa, which makes heavy use of adnominal clause structures. At times the salient information is contained almost completely in its adnominal clauses.
In A Reference Grammar of Japanese (1988), Samuel Martin observes the tendency in literature to use rentai-shūshoku-setsu to move the story along.
- Japanese authors often make skillful use of adnominalizations to carry along their narrative, where the English translator would prefer conjunctions. Observe the free translation of the following passage: Tábata kara dénsya(¯) ni notte Ueno de órita san-nín wa soko de mata Asakusa máde tika-tétudoo ni notta 'The three men took the train from Tabata to Ueno and then rode the subway to Asakusa' [from Kubota Mantarō 1963].
Where the Japanese uses a rentai-shūshoku-setsu: 'The three who took the train from Tabata and got off at Ueno then took the subway to Asakusa', an idiomatic translation in English uses simple coordination.
In English, there is a division between integrated (restrictive) and supplementary (non-restrictive) relative clauses. In the Japanese examples that follow, this distinction is at times difficult to maintain. It is at times what is more important is whether the adnominal clause is essential to the sense of the whole sentence, or whether it is simply background information that could be omitted without harming the overall sense.
In the following, an adnominal clause is used to explain the background to Zhou Yangkong's state of panic. This can be understood as a restrictive (integrated) clause that is essential to identifying the nature of the persons referred to:
jibun no himitsu o shiru⤷jinbutsu mo ... tsugi tsugi, kōsoku sareta
'people⤴︎who knew his own secrets were also one after another detained ...'
The adnominal clause providing information that the people involved 'are believed to have received instructions from Zhou Yongkang' is essential information without which the sentence would make little sense — although from the point of view of English it is not clearly either a restrictive clause or a supplementary clause.
A similar adnominal clause is used to identify the author's source of information:
Tōji no jijō o shiru⤷jinbutsu no shōgen da
'(This) is the testimony of a person⤴︎who knows the situation at the time.'
This refers not to some vague person but specifically to a person with knowledge of the situation.
A third sentence using 人物 jinbutsu person(s) is of a similar nature.
Shū Eikō no i o uketa to mirareru⤷jinbutsu-ra ga...
'people⤴︎who are believed to have received instructions from Zhou Yongkang ...'
In one sentence in a mise-en-scène, the adnominal clause explains the nature of Zhou Yongkang's authority:
Shū Eikō wa ... kōan (keisatsu), busō keisatsu o ugokasu⤷kenryoku o itte ni nigitte ita.
Zhou Yongkang ... had sole authority⤴︎to control Public Security (the police) and the Armed Police.
The following fragment also restricts the discussion to a certain type of 'paper company' (company that exists only on paper), those established in tax havens:
Sozei kaihichi ni setsuritsu shita⤷pēpā kanpanii o ...
'...paper companies⤴︎established in tax havens.'
Japanese also uses adnominal clauses to insert 'supplementary information', equivalent to non-restrictive relative clauses in English.
In the following sentence, the adnominal clause provides the background information that Xi Jinping's accession to the leadership had already been decided. The clause does not define 'Xi Jinping'; it provides supplementary information about him that is important to the unfolding of the story:
toppu e no shūnin ga kimatte ita⤷Shū Kinpei no shinzoku no shisan mondai
'the issue of assets of relatives of Xi Jinping,⤴︎whose accession to the top had been decided'
The adnominal is in the past tense of the ている -te iru form, indicating a situation that held at the time that the action took place.
In the following sentence, adnominal clauses provide background information to help understand the point of Zhou Yongkang's planning:
Meiyū datta⤷Haku Kirai o, intai suru⤷mizukara no atogama to shite saikō shidōbu-iri sase, kono bun'ya o kaku ni insei o shiku.
'As successor to himself⤴︎who will retire, he would insert Bo Xilai,⤴︎who was his ally, into the top leadership and prepare a regency with this area as its axis.
While the sentence makes sense without the adnominal clauses, the clauses serve to add background information for understanding Zhou Yongkang's intent.
The main sentence is in the present tense and indicates future intentions (院政を敷く insei o shiku 'set up a regency'). The first adnominal is in the past tense and describes the situation that held at the time. The second adnominal is in the present tense indicating future intent — that Zhou Yangkong at that time planned to retire.
A number of adnominal clauses are designed less to add supplementary information than to explain what is behind the author's thinking. Two such clauses in the opening of the article seem designed to back up the author's point.
The first adds extra information on the nature of Chinese political struggles in order to add detail to the author's characterisation:
Chūgoku no kenryoku tōsō de wa, naibu de seishi o kaketa⤷doro-jiaiga enjirareru.
In Chinese struggles for power, a mud-slinging battle⤴︎ in which life and death are at stake is played out internally.'
The next sentence features an adnominal clause which bolsters the author's viewpoint by claiming that China is unlike most other countries:
attōteki tasū no kuni ga saiyō suru⤷senkyo to yū minshuteki de kōsei na shudan ga nai tame da.
That's because it does not have the democratic, fair means known as elections⤴︎that the overwhelming majority of countries adopt.'
An adnominal clause later in the article seems to perform a similar function:
...chikuzai mondai wa, chūgoku no seikyoku o ugokasu⤷jōhō-sen no shuyaku da.
'... issue of wealth accumulation plays the key role in the information wars⤴︎that move Chinese political affairs'.
The adnominal clause 中国の政局を動かす chūgoku no seikyoku o ugokasu 'that move Chinese political affairs' adds extra information to 情報戦の主役 jōhō-sen no shuyaku 'key role in the information war'. This is not an essential clause, serving only to reinforce Nakazawa's point about the importance of these 'wars of information'.
In the next sentence, the adnominal clause 命をかけた inochi o kaketa 'on which life was staked' is also non-essential information inserted to buttress Nakazawa's point:
Shingi to wa hanarete, chikuzai giwaku no rufu jitai ga inochi o kaketa⤷seikyoku no zairyō datta.
'Quite apart from the truth or falsity of the facts, the dissemination of the wealth-amassing scandal itself was political material⤴︎on which life was staked.'
Describing the nature of something
A frequently encountered type of adnominal clause is one which describes the head (noun or nominal group) to which it is attached in detail.
In the following sentence presenting an example of the importance of information in Chinese political struggles, the nature of 激烈な闘い gekiretsu na tatakai 'furious struggle' is almost completely contained in an adnominal clause:
Moto saikō shidōbu membā no Shū Eikō, moto Jūkei-shi toppu no Haku Kirai o meguru⤷gekiretsu na tatakai ga sono rei datta.
'The furious struggle⤴︎revolving around the original member of the top leadership, Zhou Yongkang, and the original chief of Chongqing city, Bo Xilai, was an example of this.
The information in the adnominal clause is essential to advancing the narrative and cannot be omitted without rendering the sentence almost meaningless. The adnominal clause is in the present tense (巡る meguru 'concerning, revolving around') as it is concerned only with identifying the nature of the struggle, not its location in time.
Another sentence with 巡る meguru also identifies the nature of the 巨額の蓄財疑惑 kyogaku no chikuzai giwaku 'the scandal of massive wealth accumulation':
Tatakai no buki wa, tōji no shushō, On Kahō no shinzoku o meguru⤷kyogaku no chikuzai giwaku.
'The weapon of the battle was the massive wealth-accumulation scandal⤴︎revolving around the family of the premier of the time, Wen Jiabao.'
The detail provided by the adnominal clause (that the scandal revolved around Wen Jiabao's family) is essential for the unfolding of the analysis and cannot be omitted.
The following sentence, which contains a second embedded adnominal clause, is of a similar type:
Kare no ushiro-date datta⤷moto kokka shuseki, Kō Takumin no shinzoku ni karamu⤷jōhō mo nakatta.
There was also no information⤴︎relating to the relatives of the former national chairman, Jiang Zemin'⤴︎who was his backer.
The following sentence contains one adnominal clause using the common form に関する ni kansuru 'related to, concerning':
Shū Eikō ni kansuru⤷kijutsu ga nai.
There was no record⤴︎concerning Zhou Yongkang.
Although formally an adnominal, this is essentially a fossilised form.
The same can be said for the next sentence:
Konkai, 'Panama Bunsho' no bakuro de futatabi chūmoku o abita⤷mondai de aru.
'This is a problem⤴︎that this time, with the exposure of the Panama Papers, has again gained attention.
The sense could have been adequately conveyed without making the sentence into an adnominal modifying 問題 mondai 'issue, problem':
Konkai, 'Panama Bunsho' no bakuro de kono mondai ga futatabi chūmoku o abita
This time, this problem has again gained attention with the exposure of the Panama Papers.
The following sentence uses an adnominal clause of content referring to the noun 例 rei. (It contains an embedded adnominal clause modifying 人物ら jinbutsu-ra 'people'):
Jissai, Shū Eikō no i o uketa to mirareru⤷jinbutsu-ra ga, Chūgoku hondo igai ni dete, jōhō o kakusan shita⤷rei mo aru.
'In actuality, there are examples⤴︎where people⤴︎who are believed to have received instructions from Zhou Yongkang went outside of Mainland China and spread information.'
The only part of the sentence not within the adnominal clause is 実際、...例もある jissai, ...rei mo aru 'in fact, there are examples'. The meat of the sentence is contained in the adnominal clauses. 例 rei 'examples' simply provides a frame.
The next sentence contains an adnominal clause of content defining 狙い nerai 'aim'. The clause describes the content of the aim:
yashinka no Haku Kirai o mochi-age, Shū ni taikō saseru⤷nerai mo atta to sareru.
'There was also said to be the aim⤴︎of raising the ambitious Bo Xilai and causing him to oppose Xi'.
Another sentence uses という to yū 'which is that' to indicate the 'content' of Wen Jiabao's reputation:
"minshū ni chikai sōri" to yū⤷imēji wa, ikki ni chi ni ochita.
the image⤴︎of being "a Premier close to the people" fell to the ground at once.'
The main adnominal points to the information that was lacking — that 'related to Jiang Zemin's relatives'. The embedded adnominal provides the background information that Jiang Zemin was Zhou Yongkang's backer.
The following contains a second clause embedded within the main adnominal clause:
Sozei kaihichi ni setsuritsu shita⤷pēpā kanpanii o tsukatta⤷chikuzai mondai...
'the issue of wealth accumulation⤴︎using paper companies⤴︎established in tax havens...'
The main adnominal clause is a clause of content. It identifies 'the issue of wealth accumulation' as involving the use of paper companies. It is integral to the narrative.The embedded adnominal, 'established in tax havens', gives background information about these 'paper companies'.
The explanation of the role of the Panama papers demonstrates how far the 'adnominal clause + noun' construction has become a stylistic mannerism.
In the first sentence:
Koko ni sozei kaihichi (takkusu heibun) no riyō to yū⤷yami ga karamu.
'The scandal⤴︎that is the use of tax havens comes in here'
the noun 闇 yami 'darkness, scandal' is the subject of the sentence, but the real information is 'the use of tax havens', which describes the content of the scandal. The adnominal uses という to yū 'which is' to indicate that the adnominal is the content of the head noun.
In fact, という闇 to yū yami 'the scandal which is' could be omitted with very little impact on the overall meaning. The writer could as easily have written:
Koko ni sozei kaihichi (takkusu heibun) no riyō ga karamu
'The use of tax havens comes in here'.
Summing up: While these are grammatically all adnominal clauses, they are used for a number of different purposes in the passage. It is these different purposes that they can be used for that make adnominal clauses such a ubiquitous feature of Japanese prose, including journalistic prose.