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Nationalism on Weibo: Towards a Multifaceted Understanding of Chinese Nationalism

  • Yinxian Zhang (a1), Jiajun Liu (a2) and Ji-Rong Wen (a3)

Abstract

It appears that nationalism has been on the rise in China in recent years, particularly among online communities. Scholars agree that the Chinese government is facing pressure from online nationalistic and pro-democracy forces; however, it is believed that of the two, nationalistic views are the more dominant. Online nationalism is believed to have pushed the Chinese government to be more aggressive in diplomacy. This study challenges this conventional wisdom by finding that online political discourse is not dominated by nationalistic views, but rather by anti-regime sentiments. Even when there is an outpouring of nationalist sentiment, it may be accompanied by pro-democracy views that criticize the government. By analysing more than 6,000 tweets from 146 Chinese opinion leaders on Weibo, and by decomposing nationalistic discussion by specific topic, this study shows that rather than being monolithically xenophobic, nationalists may have differing sets of views regarding China's supposed rivals. Rather than being supportive of the regime, nationalists may incorporate liberal values to challenge the government. Nonetheless, this liberal dominance appears to provoke a backlash of nationalism among certain groups.

近年来,民族主义情绪看似在中国网络空间节节走高。学者们认为互联网给中国政府带来了民族主义的压力,并促使政府在外交上日趋铁腕。然而,本研究发现,民族主义情绪并非网络政治话语的主导部分。即便在其泛滥之时,民族主义情绪也可能与自由主义意见相结合,并对政府提出批评。本研究对 146 名微博意见领袖共计 6000 余条微博进行了内容分析,并将民族主义讨论拆解为不同的话题进行比较。我们发现,民族主义者并不是站在统一战线的仇外主义者,反而对所谓中国的敌手抱有不同的好恶; 同时,民族主义者并不是无条件拥护政府,反而有可能吸纳自由派的意见来质疑政府的权威。然而,强势的自由主义却也在一定程度上引发反噬,在某些网络群体中激发了爱国主义和民族主义情绪。

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Email: zyxzhang@uchicago.edu (corresponding author).

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