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Images of the World: Studying Abroad and Chinese Attitudes towards International Affairs*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2010


Since the late 19th century many Chinese leaders have studied abroad, mostly in Japan, the US or the former Soviet Union. Recently, thousands are returning from studying overseas. Is this new cohort of returnees more internationalist than Chinese who do not study abroad? If their values differ and they join China's elite, they could influence China's foreign policy. Drawing on surveys of returnees from Japan and Canada over the past 15 years, we compare their views on “co-operative internationalism” and “assertive nationalism” with the attitudes of China's middle class drawn from a nationwide survey in 2006. Our returnees are both more “internationalist” than the middle class and less nationalistic. So they are likely to support China's increasing international role and perhaps constrain China's growing nationalist sentiment.

Copyright © The China Quarterly 2010

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30 We defined middle class as total household income above 50,000 yuan in 2005 before taxes.

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37 The p-values of the F-test, 0.3077 and 0.103 respectively, are not statistically significant.

38 The p-value of the F-test is 0.166 and 0.00 for these two questions, respectively.

39 For “co-operative internationalism,” we coded “strongly agree” as 5 and “strongly disagree” as 1 and then added the responses to the two questions which formed the concept. Ten reflected the strongest support, while 0 reflected the least support. We adopt the same method for assertive nationalism. However, as there are four questions measuring assertive nationalism, we add the four responses together and then divide the result in half. So 10 again reflects the most nationalistic, while 0 is the least nationalistic. We thank the Survey Research Center of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and Yanjie Bian, for providing the data. Funds were provided by a Central Allocation Grant from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (CA03/04.HSS01), HKUST and Renmin University of China.

40 This survey uses a multi-stage stratified sampling scheme with unequal probabilities.

41 The scale used in the GSS survey was 4 point, not 5. So we multiplied the sum of the responses to our measures of co-operative nationalism by 1.25. With four questions in our concept of assertive nationalism, we multiply the sum of assertive nationalism questions by 1.25 and then by 0.5. As a result, the scale of both concepts runs from 0 to 10. One question measuring assertive nationalism – “To protect our country's national interests, we could use military force if necessary” (use military) – does not appear in the GSS data, so instead we used the responses to another statement: “Some international power tries to contain China's development and rise.”

42 Combing GSS data and CSCSE data on returnees together, further regression analysis finds that country destination (Japan and Canada) is statistically significant (p < 0.05) in the model of assertive nationalism and co-operative internationalism, controlling the effects of age, gender, education, income, years living overseas, political interest and Party membership.

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