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.
Official Media as Emotional Valves: How Official Media Guides Nationalism on Chinese Social Media
Fangzhu Lu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication, School of Journalism, Renmin University of China, Beijing.
Zhongbin Huang is an Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China.
Tianguang Meng is a Tenured Professor in the Department of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
The data for this study were provided by the Computational Social Science Institute of Tsinghua University. The authors are grateful to the institute staff for their assistance in providing and processing the data. The authors are solely responsible for the contents of the paper.
Fangzhu Lu, Zhongbin Huang, Tianguang Meng; Official Media as Emotional Valves: How Official Media Guides Nationalism on Chinese Social Media. Asian Survey 2023; doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/as.2023.1831404
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