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Guns and Butter in China: How Chinese Citizens Respond to Military Spending

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2020

Xiao Han*
The University of Hong Kong.
Michael Sadler
The University of Hong Kong. Email:
Kai Quek
The University of Hong Kong. Email:
Email: (corresponding author).


Militaries are sustained by public money that is diverted away from other domestic ends. How the public react to the “guns-versus-butter” trade-off is thus an important question in understanding the microfoundations of Chinese military power. However, there are few studies on public attitudes towards military spending in China, whose rising power has been a grave concern to many policymakers around the world. We fielded a national online survey to investigate the nature of public support for military spending in China. We find that Chinese citizens support military spending in the abstract, but their support diminishes when considered alongside other domestic spending priorities. We also find that public support for military spending coexists surprisingly with anti-war sentiments and a significant strain of isolationism. In addition, while the conventional wisdom suggests that nationalism moves a state towards bellicosity and war, we find that Chinese citizens with a stronger sense of national pride report stronger anti-war sentiments than other citizens.



维持军队将会挤占用于实现其他内政目标的公共资金。因此,理解中国公众对 “大炮与黄油” 这一对矛盾的态度,是理解中国军事实力微观基础的一大课题。然而,只有少数研究涉及中国的公众舆论如何看待军费开支,而中国日益上升的实力正成为全世界许多政策制定者们严重关切的课题。本文通过一项全国性的网络调查,探究了中国公众对于国家军费开支的态度。我们发现,中国公民支持增加军费开支;但是当军费开支与其他内政目标相比时,公众对军费开支的支持就会减少。出乎意料的是,公众对于军费开支的支持与反战情绪和强烈的孤立主义情绪共同存在。不仅如此,传统观点认为,民族主义高涨会使一个国家变得更为好战;与之相悖,我们的研究结果却显示,越是以国家为荣的中国公民,反战意识越是强烈。

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Copyright © SOAS University of London, 2020

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