Mathew Thompson on Sinospace: China’s Internet nationalism and Sino-Japanese relations

Though largely controlled by the State, Sinospace is nevertheless providing opportunities to ordinary citizens, or ‘netizens’, to voice their opinions and challenge the State in the form of internet contention that sometimes become street protests. The question therefore arises, just what impact is Sinospace having on State-society relations in China? Are we witnessing a genuine civic discourse, where the State feels it needs to listen to the opinions of private individuals in order to legitimize itself? Are we seeing a Harbermasian public sphere in China, and in Sinospace?

My thesis focuses on the impact that Sinospace is having on one element of State-Society relations – popular nationalism, within the realm of Sino-Japanese relations. This seminar will focus on one of my case studies - the 2012 protests that erupted in China following the Japanese government’s purchase of the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands. An exciting opportunity arose to follow the first ever nation-wide anti-Japanese protests in Sinospace via Weibo (a microblog service often referred to as China’s Twitter).

I ask whether nationalistic movements, like the 2012 protests, embody the elements of a true Habermasian public sphere in China, or it is a distorted form of the public sphere where public opinion on the part of rational individuals too often boils over into the irrational popular passions and mob nationalism.

Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute