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The Political Geography of Nationalist Protest in China: Cities and the 2012 Anti-Japanese Protests*

  • Jeremy L. Wallace (a1) and Jessica Chen Weiss (a2)

Why do some Chinese cities take part in waves of nationalist protest but not others? Nationalist protest remains an important but understudied topic within the study of contentious politics in China, particularly at the subnational level. Relative to other protests, nationalist mobilization is more clustered in time and geographically widespread, uniting citizens in different cities against a common target. Although the literature has debated the degree of state-led and grassroots influence on Chinese nationalism, we argue that it is important to consider both the propensity of citizens to mobilize and local government fears of instability. Analysing an original dataset of 377 anti-Japanese protests across 208 of 287 Chinese prefectural cities, we find that both state-led patriotism and the availability of collective action resources were positively associated with nationalist protest, particularly “biographically available” populations of students and migrants. In addition, the government's role was not monolithically facilitative. Fears of social unrest shaped the local political opportunity structure, with anti-Japanese protests less likely in cities with larger populations of unemployed college graduates and ethnic minorities and more likely in cities with established leaders.


为何有的城市加入到民族主义抗议浪潮之中而有的城市却没有? 民族主义抗议, 特别是在地方层面上, 始终是一个在中国抗争性政治学领域重要却仍待探索的课题。与其他抗议相比, 民族主义的动员在时间上比较集中而在地域分布上也比较广泛, 将不同城市的公民朝着一个共同的目标联系起来。尽管现有文献已经对国家引导与民间力量对中国民族主义的影响程度进行过争论, 我们认为将公民的动员倾向与当地政府对不稳定的恐惧两者同时纳入考虑范围是很重要的。通过分析一组包含中国 287 个地级市中发生在 208 个市内的 377 次反日抗议的原创性数据, 我们发现国家引导下的爱国主义与集体行动资源的可利用性两者都与民族主义抗议呈正性关联, 特别是对于学生和流动人口等拥有比较充裕的时间的人群。此外, 政府的角色也不是一味的促进。对社会不安的忧虑塑造了当地的政治机会架构, 使得反日抗议在有很多未就业大学毕业生和少数民族人口的地方发生的可能性较小, 而在有地位巩固的领导者的城市发生的可能性较大。

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The authors would like to thank Lizzie Shan for her assistance with the data collection, two reviewers, Jean Oi, Andy Walder, Deborah Davis, Graeme Robertson, and audiences at Yale and Stanford for their comments and suggestions. All errors remain our own.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Yongshun Cai . 2008. “Power structure and regime resilience: contentious politics in China.” British Journal of Political Science 38(03), 411432.

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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