Sumantra noted a research paper by Harvard’s Alastair Iain Johnston in the journal International Security that raises doubts about the narrative that China is becoming increasingly nationalistic.
One section of the paper highlights differences between attitudes of the youth and those of their elders.
Moreover, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the data do not show that China’s youth express higher levels of nationalism than older generations. Indeed, it is China’s older generations that are more nationalistic than its youth. These findings—with due regard for caveats about representativeness— suggest that rising popular nationalism may not be a critically important vari- able constraining Chinese foreign policy.
Sometimes the claim is made that rising nationalism exists because it is assumed, though not shown, that official government policies such as the Patriotic Education Campaign, launched in the early 1990s, are having their intended effect.
As Johnston’s numbers suggest, China’s youth are in fact noticeably less likely than their parents to answer yes to questions of patriotism and nationalism like, “I would prefer to be a citizen of China,” “China is a better country than most,” and “You should support your country even when it is wrong.”
This makes sense for multiple reasons: