East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

March 8, Yinxian Zhang, “Chinese Online Nationalism Revisited: Toward a Multi-faceted Understanding of Nationalism”


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society presents


 “Chinese Online Nationalism Revisited: Toward a Multi-faceted Understanding of Nationalism”

Yinxian Zhang

Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology

University of Chicago

4:30-6:00p.m., Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.




Scholars of Chinese online nationalism have tended to emphasize the prevalence of a radical nationalism discourse in the cyberspace. They also argue that this discourse calls for a stronger rather than freer China, and that nationalism dampens China’s prospects for democratic reforms. Despite the compelling data in these literature, scholars tend to explore their subject by focusing on either a single case (e.g., popular reaction to the territorial dispute between China and Japan) or a single aspect of nationalism (e.g., only through the lens of foreign issues). Therefore, they will examine people’s online expression of hatred towards Japan for instance, and take this as evidence of the prevalence of online nationalism.

Adopting a different operationalization of nationalism, this paper disaggregates this subject into different components and juxtaposes several cases/topics where nationalist sentiment arises. Using data extracted from a corpus of 27 billion Weibo posts, this paper presents fresh evidence that questions the findings of the previous literature. In particular, my research shows that, although a voice online, nationalism does not dominate the public cyberspace. Moreover, different from the stereotype of a regime defender, the so-called nationalists would often hold diverse opinions towards different issues, criticize state policies and challenge the regime as civil activists. Overall, my research shows that online nationalists by no means form the monolithic social block that is typically depicted by contemporary scholarship and media coverage.


Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/

Student coordinator: Yan Xu (xuyan@uchicago.edu)

Faculty sponsors: Xi Song, Dali Yang and Dingxin Zhao


This presentation is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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