This paper examines how the Chinese government chooses to employ, shape, or subdue a nationalist narrative in relation to foreign policy decisions. The Capstone team examined eleven case studies from 2012 onward via English-language Chinese news sources and government statements. Four of these cases were also examined in Chinese-language sources. Social media was not examined due to attribution, censorship, and cultural problems; however, the Chinese government’s treatment of popular nationalism was identified via the proxy of what comments they tacitly allowed or disallowed on their news sites.

During the research, the team tested if the Chinese government established positions diplomatically that either capitalized on or were in reaction to nationalism. The report demonstrates a high likelihood that the Chinese government is capable of shaping and exploiting the nationalist narrative for foreign policy purposes. Just as importantly, China is able to do so with a degree of control and nuance, which undermines the popular academic position that the CCP is being forced to “ride the tiger” of Chinese nationalism. Instead, the Chinese government is demonstrably able to incite nationalism, redirect it, create specific images for other nations, and indeed restrain nationalist outcry, all reasonably quickly and with little apparent risk.

Faculty Advisor: Roy Kamphausen