How Socialization Shapes Chinese Views of America and the World

2016 Japanese Journal of Political Science  
AbstractUrban Chinese today do not appear to trust foreign countries. Why are they so suspicious? Over the past quarter century, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has utilized its educational and propaganda systems to produce historical narratives of imperial China's beneficence towards its East Asian neighbors, and of an early modern 'Century of Humiliation' at the hands of 'imperialist' foreign powers. Qualitative analysis of Chinese social media today suggests that these narratives are tied
more » ... o widespread popular distrust of China's 'ungrateful' East Asian neighbors and the 'hegemonic' West today. Interrogating a 2012 survey of urban Chinese, this paper explores the sources of international attitudes quantitatively. It first examines whether Chinese today do indeed distrust foreign countries. It then tests two hypotheses about the drivers of Chinese distrust towards the world today. A 'top-down' socialization hypothesis holds that political (e.g. party propaganda via education and the media) and/or social (e.g. peer groups, social conformity) pressures shape the international attitudes of the Chinese people. A 'bottom-up' psychological hypothesis, by contrast, holds that individual differences like age and gender shape Chinese attitudes. We find substantial support for the former: more years of education are associated with levels of dis/trust in foreign countries in the socially or politically appropriate ways. However, we also find that 'bottom-up' individual differences in subjective interest in international affairs interact with 'top-down' socialization processes like education and media exposure in shaping the international attitudes of urban Chinese today. The prevalence of public discourses of distrust towards foreign countries does not bode well for Chinese foreign policy in the twenty-first century.
doi:10.1017/s1468109915000365 fatcat:6s5etiz7v5f43dk772twwt3mu4