PRC Scholars on Mobilization of Public Opinion in 2012 Diaoyutai/Senkakus Affair

Followers of Chinese media policy and China’s territorial disputes on its periphery may find this intriguing.

Three PRC scholars He Xiaojing, Liu Yungang, and Ge Qiujing at Beijing Normal University and Zhongshan University in the September 2015 issue of World Regional Studies published their analysis of China’s mobilization of public opinion in the 2012  Diaoyutai/Senkakus Incident. They used the idea of three levels of scale in geopolitics:

  • Practical geopolitics: policy formulation and implementation by government;
  • Formal geopolitics — academia; and
  • Popular geopolitics — the general public

to analyze the mobilization of Chinese public opinion by the PRC government in 2012 for the Diaoyutai/Senkakus Affair. They argue that in a dispute that the weaker party will broaden a dispute to the general public while the stronger party will want to avoid this and keep it at the government-to-government level.

In analyzing (see screen capture below) the most frequently used words in People’s Daily in articles related to the dispute, the three scholars found that PRC media used hard, emotionally laden terms such as “ever since ancient times” and “national sovereignty” early one but later switched  to words a bit softer and more likely to persuade such as  “issue”, “national territory” and “development”.

[Note: Media adaptability/finesse among people sending out media control directives is interesting.  Until a few years ago, some Chinese officials would talk about pernicious foreigners “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people”.  I hadn’t noticed that so often the past few years but a kindly academic corrected me on that point — I did a little online research and found by a recent (12/18/2015) Google News search  in Chinese shows that the term “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”[ “伤害了中国人民的感情”] is still in wide use.  There was a story in the US media a few years ago that a US Congressman told a PRC Embassy person “That line makes you guys look like idiots”.  Wonder if that is what did it!? Or if the story is true?]

The authors conclude that the mobilization of the masses was effective and did help give China the high ground in the battle for world opinion.  They add that nonetheless more work needs to be done to properly guide international opinion so that, even as China quite properly stands up for itself, it will also use soft power to maintain and project China’s peaceful image.  This will prevent other countries with their own agendas from spreading the “China threat theory”.

I got this World Regional Studies article at  where it is a free download.


贺小婧, 刘云刚, 等. 钓鱼岛事件的尺度政治与言论分析[J].世界地理研究,2015,24(3):24-33 by  He Xiaojing, Liu Yungang, and Ge Qiujing. Analysis of the Diaoyu Islands dispute by the method of politics of scale and text analysis [J].World Regional Studies, 2015,24(3):24-33

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
This entry was posted in Foreign Relations 外交, Media 媒体 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to PRC Scholars on Mobilization of Public Opinion in 2012 Diaoyutai/Senkakus Affair

  1. Pingback: The Sinocism China Newsletter 12.16.15 | The Sinocism China Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s