Social media is the most popular platform for the expression of public opinion, and it is a critical channel through which researchers can observe the dynamics and patterns of public opinion. This study explores the political origins of Chinese nationalism by focusing on how official media shapes mass nationalism in Cyber China. Analyzing 26 million Weibo posts made during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we found significant variations in nationalism among user types, localities, and stages of the pandemic. Unlike previous studies, we found that the official Chinese media did not always play the expected role of promoting nationalism; instead, it acted as a system of emotional valves that channeled social sentiment. Official media is intended to stabilize social sentiment and prevent social unrest, and nationalistic news stories are used to draw attention away from domestic problems.

You do not currently have access to this content.