Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-xbgml Total loading time: 0.406 Render date: 2022-08-14T06:18:57.718Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

The Political and Economic Consequences of Nationalist Protest in China: The 2012 Anti-Japanese Demonstrations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2018

Kevin Foley
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Email:
Jeremy L. Wallace*
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Jessica Chen Weiss
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Email:
Email: (corresponding author).


What are the consequences of nationalist unrest? This paper utilizes two original datasets, which cover 377 city-level anti-Japanese protests during the 2012 Senkaku/Diaoyu Island crisis and the careers of municipal leaders, to analyse the downstream effects of nationalist unrest at the subnational level. We find both political and economic consequences of China's 2012 protest demonstrations against Japan. Specifically, top Party leaders in cities that saw relatively spontaneous, early protests were less likely to be promoted to higher office, a finding that is consistent with the widely held but rarely tested expectation that social instability is punished in the Chinese Communist Party's cadre evaluation system. We also see a negative effect of nationalist protest on foreign direct investment (FDI) growth at the city level. However, the lower promotion rates associated with relatively spontaneous protests appear to arise through political rather than economic channels. By taking into account data on social unrest in addition to economic performance, these results add to existing evidence that systematic evaluation of leaders’ performance plays a major role in the Chinese political system. These findings also illuminate the dilemma that local leaders face in managing popular nationalism amid shifting national priorities.


爱国主义抗议有哪些后果? 通过分析包含 377 次反日示威和市级领导简历的两组原创数据库, 此论文探讨反日示威在次国家层面的后续效应。我们发现 2012 年的反日示威确实导致了政治和经济两方面的后果。具体而言, 在那些有比较自发的、发生时间较早的抗议游行的城市, 市级领导晋升的可能性相对更低。这一观察符合一种广泛存在、但很少证实的猜测, 即维稳方面的政绩已成为中国共产党干部考核制度的重要内容。作者也发现, 爱国主义抗议对地方吸引外商直接投资 (FDI) 有负面影响。但是, 自发的爱国主义示威似乎是通过政治的、而非经济的渠道对市级领导的晋升产生负面影响。通过将社会动乱数据与经济绩效数据相结合, 此研究进一步证实了部绩效系统考核制度在中国政治体系中的主要作用。此研究也有助于理解地方领导在面临国家利益优先次序变动的情况下如何管控爱国主义浪潮的政治困境。

Research Article
Copyright © SOAS University of London 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ang, Yuen Yuen. 2016. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Birney, Mayling. 2014. “Decentralization and veiled corruption under China's ‘rule of mandates’.” World Development 53, 5567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Braithwaite, Alex, Kucik, Jeffrey and Maves, Jessica. 2014. “The costs of domestic political unrest.” International Studies Quarterly 58(3), 489500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cairns, Christopher, and Carlson, Allen. 2016. “Real-world islands in a social media sea: nationalism and censorship on Weibo during the 2012 Diaoyu/Senkaku crisis.” The China Quarterly 225, 2349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Copeland, Dale C. 1996. “Economic interdependence and war: a theory of trade expectations.” International Security 20(4), 541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, Christina L., and Meunier, Sophie. 2011. “Business as usual? Economic responses to political tensions.” American Journal of Political Science 55(3), 628646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edin, Maria. 2003. “State capacity and local agent control in China: CCP cadre management from a township perspective.” The China Quarterly 173, 3552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erickson, Andrew S., and Liff, Adam P.. 2016. “Installing a safety on the ‘loaded gun’? China's institutional reforms, National Security Commission and Sino–Japanese crisis (in)stability.” Journal of Contemporary China 25(98), 197215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fewsmith, Joseph. 2012. “‘Social management’ as a way of coping with heightened social tensions.” China Leadership Monitor 36(6), Scholar
Göbel, Christian, and Ong, Lynette H.. 2012. “Social unrest in China.” Long Briefing, Europe China Research and Academic Network (ECRAN), Scholar
Greene, William H. 2012. Econometric Analysis (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
Guo, Gang. 2009. “China's local political budget cycles.” American Journal of Political Science 53(3), 621632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jensen, Nathan, Biglaiser, Glen, Li, Quan and Malesky, Edmund. 2012. Politics and FDI. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Kastner, Scott L. 2007. “When do conflicting political relations affect international trade?Journal of Conflict Resolution 51(4), 664688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keshk, Omar M.G., Pollins, Brian M. and Reuveny, Rafael. 2004. “Trade still follows the flag: the primacy of politics in a simultaneous model of interdependence and armed conflict.” Journal of Politics 66(4), 1155–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirshner, Jonathan. 1999. “Keynes, capital mobility and the crisis of embedded liberalism.” Review of International Political Economy 6(3), 313337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kou, Chien-wen, and Tsai, Wen-Hsuan. 2014. “‘Sprinting with small steps’: towards promotion: solutions for the age dilemma in the CCP cadre appointment system.” The China Journal 71, 153171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Landry, Pierre F. 2008. Decentralized Authoritarianism in China: The Communist Party's Control of Local Elites in the Post-Mao Era. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Landry, Pierre F., , Xiaobo and Duan, Haiyan. 2018. “Does performance matter? Evaluating political selection along the Chinese administrative ladder.” Comparative Political Studies 51(8), 10741105. Scholar
Li, Hongbin, and Zhou, Li-An. 2005. “Political turnover and economic performance: the incentive role of personnel control in China.” Journal of Public Economics 89(9), 1743–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lupu, Yonatan, and Traag, Vincent A.. 2012. “Trading communities, the networked structure of international relations, and the Kantian peace.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 57(6), 1011–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Manion, Melanie C. 1985. “The cadre management system, post-Mao: the appointment, promotion, transfer and removal of Party and state leaders.” The China Quarterly 102, 203233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mansfield, Edward D. 1995. Power, Trade, and War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Mastanduno, Michael. 1998. “Economics and security in statecraft and scholarship.” International Organization 52(4), 825854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Minzner, Carl F. 2009. “Riots and cover-ups: counterproductive control of local agents in China.” University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 31(1), 53123.Google Scholar
Morrow, James D. 1999. “How could trade affect conflict?Journal of Peace Research 36(4), 481–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morrow, James D., Siverson, Randolph M. and Tabares, Tressa E.. 1998. “The political determinants of international trade: the major powers, 1907–1990.” American Political Science Review 92(3), 649661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Brien, Kevin J., and Li, Lianjiang. 1999. “Selective policy implementation in rural China.” Comparative Politics 31(2), 167186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Papayoanou, Paul A. 1997. “Economic interdependence and the balance of power.” International Studies Quarterly 41(1), 113140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pollins, Brian M. 1989a. “Conflict, cooperation, and commerce: the effect of international political interactions on bilateral trade flows.” American Journal of Political Science 33(3), 737761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pollins, Brian M. 1989b. “Does trade still follow the flag?American Political Science Review 83(2), 465480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reilly, James. 2013. Strong Society, Smart State: The Rise of Public Opinion in China's Japan Policy. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Reilly, James. 2014. “A wave to worry about? Public opinion, foreign policy and China's anti-Japan protests.” Journal of Contemporary China 23(86), 197215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shih, Victor, Adolph, Christopher and Liu, Mingxing. 2012. “Getting ahead in the Communist Party: explaining the advancement of central committee members in China.” American Political Science Review 106(1), 166187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swaine, Michael D., and Taylor Fravel, M.. 2011. “China's assertive behavior – part two: the maritime periphery.” China Leadership Monitor 35, Scholar
Tarrow, Sidney. 1996. “Social movements in contentious politics: a review article.” American Political Science Review 90(4), 874883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wallace, Jeremy L., and Weiss, Jessica Chen. 2015. “The political geography of nationalist protest in China: cities and the 2012 anti-Japanese protests.” The China Quarterly 222, 403429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, Alex. 2013. The Search for Sustainable Legitimacy: Environmental Law and Bureaucracy in China. SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2128167. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.Google Scholar
Weiss, Jessica Chen. 2013. “Authoritarian signaling, mass audiences, and nationalist protest in China.” International Organization 67(1), 135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weiss, Jessica Chen. 2014. Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China's Foreign Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Whiting, Susan. 2000. Power and Wealth in Rural China: The Political Economy of Institutional Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Whiting, Susan. 2004. “The cadre evaluation system at the grass roots: the paradox of Party rule.” In Naughton, Barry C. and Yang, Dali (eds.), Holding China Together: Diversity and National Integration in the Post-Deng Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 101119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wood, B. Dan. 2009. “Presidential saber rattling and the economy.” American Journal of Political Science 53(3), 695709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

Foley et al. supplementary material

Web Appendix

Download Foley et al. supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 319 KB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Political and Economic Consequences of Nationalist Protest in China: The 2012 Anti-Japanese Demonstrations
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Political and Economic Consequences of Nationalist Protest in China: The 2012 Anti-Japanese Demonstrations
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Political and Economic Consequences of Nationalist Protest in China: The 2012 Anti-Japanese Demonstrations
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *