COVID-19 generated significant anti-Chinese sentiment in South Korea. Domestic elite-level narratives regarding China at the pandemic’s onset were highly polarized: conservative parties advocated border shutdowns, emphasizing China as originating the virus, while progressive parties warned that this would incite xenophobia. Did these narratives shape anti-Chinese sentiment, and what are their foreign policy effects? Using social media data, I show that despite the polarized narratives at the elite level, attitudes of both conservative and progressive voters became unfavorable toward China following COVID-19’s onset. Furthermore, statistical analyses of survey data show that this blame is strongly associated with negative perceptions of China. Although substantively not directly linked to foreign policy, blame of China is strongly associated with rejection of foreign policy alignment with China and a shift toward supporting alignment with the US. These results have implications for understanding public support of South Korea’s foreign policy amid US–China bifurcation.
COVID-19, Anti-Chinese Sentiment, and Foreign Policy Attitudes in South Korea
Esther E. Song is a Research Fellow at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies, Hamburg. She thanks the anonymous reviewers, the editor-in-chief, Andrew Payne, and Richard Turcsányi for helpful comments on earlier versions of this work. She is also grateful to TaeYoung Kang for sharing the algorithm used in this work.
Esther E. Song; COVID-19, Anti-Chinese Sentiment, and Foreign Policy Attitudes in South Korea. Asian Survey 1 October 2023; 63 (5): 823–850. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/as.2023.2008558
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