The nature and construction of Chinese nationalism towards Japan: through the lens of the Diaoyu/Senkaku case study, 2010 and 2012

Burcu, Oana (2017) The nature and construction of Chinese nationalism towards Japan: through the lens of the Diaoyu/Senkaku case study, 2010 and 2012. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In the last two decades, against the backdrop of multiple anti-foreign protests in China, among which the anti-Japanese protests were prominent, debates emerged over the rise and meaning of Chinese nationalism. This thesis analyses the nature and formation of China’s nationalism towards Japan, with an emphasis on bottom-up manifestations of nationalism. The analysis compares the anti-Japanese demonstrations and boycotts of 2010 and 2012 triggered by disputes over the contested Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

The current literature on Chinese nationalism is largely dominated by top-down perspectives which neglect the prospect of a nationalism separate from the state. This thesis argues that it is not only that bottom-up and top-down forces coexist, but that they interact in a dynamic and bidirectional process. This interaction, explained through Giddens’ structuration theory and Wendt’s constructivist theory, is significant in understanding how nationalism is shaped.

In the detailed analysis of nationalism theories of instrumentalism, along with those of primordialism and ethnosymbolism are used. It is through these lenses that each step of the “nationalism” is studied - from history and triggers of nationalism to popular manifestations, current discussions of nationalism and its effect on China’s domestic and foreign policy.

By placing China into the historical context of the last century, it is shown that anti-Japanese feelings in China are the result of embedded memories of war and a need of unifying the nation against Imperial Japan, rather than purely the result of a political machination. History, combined with threat perception and China’s development, led to large anti-Japanese manifestations over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in 2010 and 2012. The authorities employed a number of strategies in order to tone down these events domestically.

Through interviews conducted with Chinese academics, researchers, protesters and activists, and discourse analysis applied to state media, it was identified that history, territorial sovereignty, mistrust and reactiveness to Japan’s actions frame the meaning of anti-Japanese nationalism in China. These shared themes brought together a wide spectrum of state and non-state actors, who put aside their dichotomous views over loyalty to the Party-state and loyalty to the nation, and showed their support for the Chinese government. The problematic effects of this type of “unified anti-Japanese nationalism” are that domestically it sets restrictive “standards” for what it means to be a “good nationalist” in China; internationally, it raises serious concerns over China’s foreign policy should a fatal Sino-Japanese accident in the East China Sea occur.

The substance of Chinese nationalism may be indicative of the type of international power that China aspires to be and informs the domestic challenges that may influence its external behaviour. By understanding the substance of nationalism, China’s perceptions of itself and “the other”, as well as its intentions home and abroad are captured. Policymakers within China and abroad should not ignore the challenges nationalism poses at the domestic level; they should look into the intricate disputes and negotiations among state and non-state actors, driven not only by economic and political calculations, but by a shared past and emotions that contribute to the internal dynamic of Chinese nationalism.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Adeney, Katharine
Hirono, Miwa
Keywords: china, chinese, nationalism, japan, diaoyu, senkaku islands
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DS Asia
J Political science > JC Political theory
J Political science > JQ Political institutions (Asia, Africa, Australasia, etc.)
J Political science > JZ International relations
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Politics and International Relations
Item ID: 42940
Depositing User: Burcu, Oana
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2023 04:30

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