Popular Nationalism and China’s Japan Policy: The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Controversy, 2012-2013

Peter Hays Gries, Derek Steiger, Tao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


2012–2013 witnessed a renewed flare-up of anti-Japanese sentiment in Mainland China, followed by a toughening of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Diaoyu Islands policy. Did popular nationalism influence the PRC’s military escalation? A lack of transparency in elite Chinese decision-making puts a definitive answer to this question beyond our reach. However, this article utilizes qualitative and quantitative analyses of anti-Japanese discourse and deeds in both cyberspace and on the streets of urban China to argue that the circumstantial evidence is compelling: nationalist opinion is a powerful driver of China’s Japan policy. The demands of nationalist legitimation appear to pressure the elite to respond to popular nationalism. Should one or more Chinese die at the hands of the Japanese navy or air force, therefore, the popular pressure for escalation and war will likely be more than China’s leaders can manage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-276
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number98
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Popular Nationalism and China’s Japan Policy: The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Controversy, 2012-2013'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this