Chinese Cyber Nationalism: The 2012 Diaoyu Islands Dispute on Sina Weibo
thesisposted on 08.02.2018, 00:00 by Miao Feng
The dissertation examined the dynamics of the 2012 Diaoyu Islands dispute on Sina Weibo across three layers: users, content, and role of platform. At the user layer, the research identifies the prominent users as elite framers on Weibo, whose discussions on the dispute dominated the framing of the issue. The most influential users are identified as predominately urban, middle class, more educated males, implying a profound inequality in the power to drive and direct the discourses on Weibo or in contemporary Chinese society. At the content layer, the dissertation discovers the major topics and frames that emerged from the discussion. It identified 11 topics via a labeled LDA topic model and then consolidated them into three major frames of Chinese cyber nationalism: nonofficial, official, and relational nationalism frames. The interactions among the social groups using the three major frames demonstrated that Chinese cyber nationalism inherited and strategically adopted the cyber nationalistic discourse from the pre-social media era; however, the dissertation found a contrasting and reconciling cyber nationalism advocated by the opinion leaders which mediated between official and popular nationalism in China. Third, the dissertation explored the roles of Weibo in the islands dispute and sought further theorization of the online space in China. As the dissertation identifies the proliferation of the “duanzi” culture among the Weibo users on the discussion of national affairs, it challenges the line of researches which only concentrate on the surveillance and censorship dynamics in Chinese internet study. A dark side of Weibo has been uncovered in the permission and promotion of fake news and misinformation on Weibo, as found elsewhere in the resurgence of nationalistic sentiments and national politics in the world. This dissertation represents the first framing study of Chinese cyber nationalism on social media. The dual rise of cyber nationalism and social media in China is not an isolated, discrete, and fragmented episode of global politics. This dissertation provides a comprehensive picture of the social players, their discourses, and power dynamics in a national/international affair of the century-long Diaoyu Islands dispute, one of the most explosive national security conflicts in the world.