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  • The Surge of Nationalist Sentiment among Chinese Youth during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since 2012, Beijing has been promoting a strain of populist nationalism which underscores both the institutional superiority of the ruling party and the cultural superiority of being Chinese. At the international level, however, the image of both the regime and the Chinese has been marred due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan (December 2019–January 2020). This study examines the extent and the form that the surge in nationalist sentiment of Chinese young people has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a questionnaire survey of 1,200 students from a sample of 20 colleges/universities in China (June–July 2020), this study shows that the respondents express high satisfaction with the state's performance in tackling the pandemic, and that there is a substantial surge of nationalist sentiment with a high level of hostility towards other nations (e.g. the United States). Such nationalist sentiment, however, is found to express a bifurcated pattern in that young Chinese also tend to embrace the opportunity to work and study in the Western societies they ostensibly dislike.

Since the military crackdown on the student movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has incessantly exploited nationalist sentiment to shore up its legitimacy and fortify its ideological control over people. Scholars have pinpointed that such "new nationalism" in the post-Tiananmen period has expressed a "complex interweaving of Chinese 'values' … [into] a patriotic narrative of nation-building".1 This has been done to an extent that the concepts of nationalism and patriotism are often used interchangeably with overlapping meanings in the official [End Page 1] lexicon and everyday discourse of contemporary China.2 One consequence is that from human catastrophes (e.g. earthquakes, floods, epidemics) to international controversies (e.g. the 2001 US spy plane incident, the 2012 Sino–Japanese territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands), Beijing has called upon propaganda narratives through all state-controlled mass media to underscore the united national solidarity to fight against the enemy—a term which may refer to a foreign government, domestic corrupt officials, or simply, nature itself.3 Arguably, the CPC's past attempts to manipulate nationalist sentiments have been highly successful in mobilising the masses in accordance with the Party-line, and diverting people's blame against the regime's undesirable performance or problematic political decisions in times of adversity. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it comes as no surprise that Beijing once again drums up populist nationalism. But the problems the regime faces today are undoubtedly more complicated and impactful than any since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Scholars and commentators have suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic has already constituted a watershed in international politics and created pivotal changes to Beijing's policies in public health, the economy, domestic politics and foreign affairs.4

No one would deny that the COVID-19 epidemic broke out in Wuhan, China (December 2019–January 2020), and that the resulting pandemic has been catastrophic, causing over 100 million infections, millions of deaths and trillions of dollars of economic loss, by the time this article was written (third quarter of 2022). However, there have been serious disputes between Beijing and the rest of the world, notably the United States and Australia, over the origin of the virus, the responsibility for controlling its initial spread, and China's contributions to contain the epidemic threat both at domestic and international levels. According to China's domestic media reports, Beijing's response to the severe challenge of the COVID-19 epidemic has been swift and efficient. The government took radical measures utilising digital technologies to lock down cities, block domestic and international traffic, implement stringent social distancing policies, and strategically allocate medical resources to the most affected regions within a short period of time.5 As the epidemic was gradually subsiding in China but continued to rage in Western countries (including the United States and some European Union countries, such as Italy), the Chinese government began to [End Page 2] hold its footing, and take steps to rebuild the international image of the regime and the Chinese people. Beijing began to proclaim the superiority of its top-down authoritarian system and the attendant centralised mobilisation mechanism. Carlson succinctly labels Beijing's diplomatic approach "soft-and-hard":

On the soft side, China launched a campaign of "mask diplomacy". China sent masks, testing kits, ventilators, and more than 170 medical experts to countries around the world, including hard-hit Italy. Chinese state media publicized these efforts extensively. The goal was to shift attention away from unpleasant issues, including the origin of the virus in Wuhan and the problems with China's initial response, and towards China's efforts to help other countries fight the pandemic. …[On the hard side,] China pressured countries to offer public thanks for Chinese donations of medical equipment, made good on threats to punish Australia economically for urging an investigation of the origins of the virus, and criticized other countries' public health responses. … [A] [F]oreign Ministry spokesman [even] claimed that the US military had introduced the virus to Wuhan, and the Chinese ambassador in Paris claimed that France had left infected people to die in nursing homes.6

Most of Beijing's efforts, both soft and hard, however, have generated a backlash around the world. The Western media pointed out that there are quality issues with the medical supplies from China. Dubbed "Wolf Warriors" after a patriotic Chinese film, aggressive Chinese diplomats have hardly turned the international media coverage in favour of Beijing. What agitated Beijing even further are the international narratives criticising Beijing's role in concealing the initial spread of the virus and managing the subsequent outbreak. Chinese leaders were also criticised by some commentators for suppressing domestic whistleblowers, underreporting the number of infections and epidemic-related deaths, and disallowing an open and thorough international investigation of the origin of the virus. One of the most severe accusations was Beijing's slow response to the initial spread of the epidemic with an intention to conceal the person-to-person transmissibility of the virus when the outbreak was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on 31 December 2019. While Chinese President Xi Jinping on 23 January 2020 ordered Wuhan locked down and people in Wuhan were subsequently prohibited from visiting Beijing, records showed that approximately five million people still managed to flee Wuhan, with at least 60,000 travelling across the borders to other countries. These runaways were allegedly the key that turned what was supposedly a domestic plague into a devastating worldwide pandemic. Unsurprisingly, these narratives have created diplomatic tensions between China and the other nations. National leaders in the United States and Brazil, for instance, overtly blamed China for causing the coronavirus crisis. [End Page 3]

The failure of Beijing's diplomatic efforts, however, does not seem to be creating much domestic dissatisfaction with the regime. Although the grievances of the most affected people in times of the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly remain, there seems to be a surge in Chinese nationalism amid international criticism.7 This phenomenon is particularly interesting as a recent study on Chinese nationalism conducted by Johnston suggests that the levels of Chinese nationalism—unlike what many may think—have stagnated or dropped from 2009 to 2016, especially among urban youth.8 Johnston's study is a comprehensive one, featuring five different tests of the claim about China's rising nationalism, and is based on an original time-series survey data set from Beijing with a range of indicators of nationalism dating back to 1998.9

Despite the many reports of the rise of nationalist sentiment in China since the COVID-19 crisis, to the best of the author's knowledge, no empirical study has addressed whether, to what extent, and in what form the Chinese are satisfied with the state's measures to contain the epidemic and have expressed nationalist sentiment about Beijing's performance. In this study, the author seeks to answer these questions by exploring nationalistic sentiment among Chinese students from a sample of officially recognised good-quality colleges/universities. Such a sample frame is pertinent because of the political prominence of elite university students in shaping the political trajectories of China throughout the 20th century.10 Drawing on a questionnaire survey of 1,200 Chinese students from 20 good-tier colleges/universities during the June–July 2020 period, this study shows that the students express high satisfaction with China's performance in containing the epidemic; a substantial surge in nationalist sentiment, and a high level of hostility to other nations (e.g. the United States). Such nationalist sentiment, however, is found to express a bifurcated pattern. In simpler terms, the informants tend to embrace the opportunity to work and study in the foreign countries towards which they express hostility. The author shall discuss the implications behind this phenomenon. [End Page 4]


Nationalist sentiment is usually defined as an uncritical attachment to one's nation and a sense of ethnocentrism relative to other nations.11 In post-Tiananmen China, however, the use of nationalist propaganda has more to do with internal control—augmenting people's support for the CPC and suppressing anti-regime movements—rather than external defence—sharpening people's xenophobic awareness in the contest between our nation in opposition to the other.12 Since Xi Jinping took the supreme Party leadership in 2012, nationalist narratives emphasising internal control have taken a new form, advocating the "Chinese Dream" and "the great revival of the Chinese nation".13 These narratives highlight the past glory of China "in terms of territory and international stature", which was lost "to the forces of imperialism and colonialism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries".14 The current nationalist discourses highlight the institutional superiority of the CPC and cultural superiority of being Chinese, and the preeminent task of Xi Jinping is to consolidate and unite all internal forces, and to restore China to one of the world's leading nations in terms of economic, cultural and political influence.

The current nationalist narratives promoted by President Xi have had allegedly a special impact on the political socialisation process of Chinese young people due to the state's increasing control over cyberspace. For example, Cairns and Carlson have argued that youth discussions on the popular Weibo social media platform indicate a higher level of nationalistic sentiment.15 Hyun and colleagues found that the youth's nationalism is positively associated with their motivation for information-seeking and social interaction on the internet, and that online political expression enhances the youth's nationalist sentiment in support of the regime.16 Other studies have even [End Page 5] suggested that online ideological influences on youth nationalism may transform into violent collective action in the name of "patriotism".17

Under Xi Jinping's leadership, young radical Chinese patriots born in the 1990s have been increasingly labelled as "angry youth" (fenqing) in the domestic media. These patriots hold a highly hostile attitude towards other nations deemed to disrespect China. They usually express their indignation against Western powers by violent actions such as throwing rocks at foreign embassy buildings and overturning foreign-made cars.18 In the aftermath of the 2016 pro-independence election in Taiwan, a new wave of young nationalist public activism surged. Labelled as "little pinks" (xiao fenhong), this new wave was distinguishable from "angry youth" insofar as they adopted more feminine and less violent discourses in expressing their nationalist sentiment online. According to Fang and Repnikova, the weapons of the "little pinks" were "neither rocks nor angry statements, but numerous funny and provocative internet memes… created by internet users who edited, remixed, and added captions to photos of celebrities and rage comics".19 The patriotic actions of the "little pinks"—similar to those of "angry youth"—were deemed authentic, which, however, makes "little pinks" different from the commentators paid by the state to sustain pro-regime discourses on the internet. These paid commentators are known as the "50-cent gang" (wumaodang). Although some scholars suggest that the "little pinks" were invented and organised by state authorities,20 more tend to deem the nationalism featured by this group as "spontaneous" and "non-state" in the sense that their patriotic actions are less anticipated by and, sometimes, not entirely in line with the state.21 For example, pointing to the creative online tactics such as "labelling" and "face-slapping" in defence of nationalist interests, Han raises concerns whether such expressions of nationalism might spill over into anti-Party sentiment.22 Fang and Repnikova further argue that the most recent cyber-nationalism was "a movement distinct from and potentially challenging the state" [End Page 6] and a movement that "is itself marred in contradicting forces of globalization, cosmopolitanism and China's complex history and culture".23

Aiming to enrich the current literature on youth nationalism, this study aims to present empirical findings that reflect how nationalism is expressed by the actors rather than how the political agenda has shaped nationalism from a top-down perspective. Furthermore, against the current background of the COVID-19 crisis, the change—rather than the absolute magnitude—of nationalist sentiment among Chinese youth constitutes the key empirical focus. But, before proceeding further, the author will endeavour to clarify the concept of Chinese nationalism and how it is operationalised in this empirical study.


As mentioned earlier, nationalism and patriotism are usually used interchangeably in the everyday discourse to express the "love of one's country". Literally, the two terms have different connotations. Nationalism refers more to the explicit doctrine or an ideological construct the ruling authority uses to shape people's country-loving sentiment. Patriotism, on the other hand, refers more to the emotional or affective side of nationalism. For the sake of conceptual clarity, the author adopts the term "nationalist sentiment" for the remainder of this article. The chain of conceptual propagation in brief is: First, according to Schwarzmantel, patriotism refers to people's "feeling of attachment to one's native land, its customs, traditions, and other features".24 From this concept of patriotism, the author derives an understanding of the term "nationalist sentiment", which refers to "nationalism-as-cognition",25 or, as people's "sentiments, attitudes and consciousness of belonging to a 'nation', and aspirations for its well-being, strength and security".26 It is along this line that the author concurs with Wei who cites Bonikowski and who deems nationalism as "a cognitive, affective, and discursive category deployed in daily practice".27 Nationalism in this study is thus understood in terms of the actor's meaning that construes "the way people perceive their nation in a world comprised of nation-states".28 In short, borrowing insights [End Page 7] from the aforementioned literature, this study adopts an approach that takes nationalism as composed of a spectrum of nationalist sentiments expressed by the actor.

Then, what are the key constituents of "nationalism" that trigger off the corresponding national sentiments on the part of the actor in the context in question? Scholars in the past have almost reached a consensus on the tripartite nature of Chinese nationalism such that nationalism is composed of (i) political authority, (ii) economic dominance and (iii) cultural pride. Following a Weberian framework to examine nationalism's material, political and cultural orientations, Wu suggests two distinct nationalisms in contemporary China: a "developmental" nationalism that endorsed the view that "the Chinese people [were] rightly struggling to be free", and a "cultural" nationalism that prompted people to search for "the cultural resources" of the nation-state's "political legitimacy and spiritual resources to support its international emergence".29 According to Wu, the cultural nationalism that emerged in the 1990s was to (i) defend the Chinese model of economic development; (ii) justify political authoritarianism, and (iii) highlight the cultural pride of being a Chinese. Wu's tripartite formulation of Chinese "cultural nationalism" echoes Liu's work which was published three years earlier than Wu's. Liu explicitly borrows insights from Smith's concept of "nationalist sentiment" (see fn 26) and regards the nation-state "not only as the ideal, 'natural', or 'normal' form of political organization but also as the indispensable framework for all social, cultural, and economic activities".30 Embracing a similar formulation, Wei focuses on the nationalism featuring in the Xi era. Wei underscores people's strong feeling of national pride in the superiority of the Chinese "nation's economy, culture, and political arrangements", and at the same time, the feeling of increasing hostility towards other nations.31 Following the intellectual consensus about the tripartite nature of Chinese nationalism illustrated so far, the author takes reference from Wei's interpretation in this article. In short, following Wei, nationalist sentiment in the Xi era amid the COVID pandemic comprises three aspects: "[i] perception of one's own nation, [ii] perception of other nations, and [iii] perception of one's home nation's foreign policy".32 And, these aspects correspond to three sets of nationalist sentiment which will be operationalised subsequently in the author's survey, namely (i) national pride and superiority, (ii) hawkish positions on geopolitical diplomacy, and (ii) hostility to other nations.

One should be aware that the current strain of Chinese nationalism which displays a strong sentiment of cultural superiority and hostility towards other nations is akin to the "right-wing nationalism" which defines the nation in terms of "mystical [End Page 8] non-rational or irrational concepts, such as that of race, or blood,…[or] the soil and the dead [i.e. tradition]".33 Such a strain of nationalism is at odds with the "leftist" or "socialist" nationalism which defends the nation in terms of the ideals of socialism and working-class movements.34 It also forms a stark contrast to Zhao's observation of Chinese nationalism in the late 20th century in which he argues that Chinese nationalism is "a situational matter, more reactive than proactive in international affairs" and is unlikely to "develop into feelings of hostility toward other peoples and nations".35 Due to space constraints, the author will not elaborate on what has precipitated the rightist turn of Chinese nationalism since the late 20th century. Interested readers may consult scholarly works which offer different views on explaining this change in terms of, for example, critical emergent socio-economic events,36 or "the geopolitik turn".37 This study, however, may shed light on the "situational" nature of Chinese nationalism, which will be highlighted and analysed in the findings and discussion sections.


The survey proceeded from 3 June to 6 July 2020 in collaboration with a third-party think tank in Beijing. The think tank possesses professional networks with over 2,000 tertiary education institutes with their alumni associations and student unions in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China. Among them, the sampling frame comprised students in what are commonly called among Chinese "good-tier" colleges/universities. As stipulated by the Ministry of Education, these colleges/universities are officially divided into four categories: (i) "first-tier universities"; (ii) "first-class discipline universities"; (iii) "ordinary undergraduate universities"; and (iv) "vocational colleges". A sample of five universities/colleges from each category was randomly selected, which constituted a total of 20 colleges/universities for this study.38 The author's plan was to collect a quota sample, comprising 60 students from each [End Page 9] chosen college/university. From each of the colleges/universities, the quota aimed to include an equal number of female and male respondents; roughly half of the respondents had STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) majors and half were humanities and social sciences majors. On 3 June 2020, a total of 3,132 online self-administered questionnaires were sent via email and by 6 July 2020, exactly 1,200 valid questionnaires were returned.39 The response rate was 38.3 per cent.

Table 1. D S R
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Table 1.

Descriptive Statistics of the Respondents

The age of respondents in the sample ranged from 18 to 32 years, with an average age of 23.03 years. Simple descriptive statistics showed that among the survey samples, less than one-fifth (19.17 per cent) were from families below China's official poverty line—an annual household income under RMB48,000 (see Table 1). One-fourth (24.41 per cent) also had a rural background; CPC membership (including probationary membership) represented slightly less than half of the sample (47.50 per cent). One should note that the proportion of CPC members was higher than is representative of China's college students in general (approximately 20 per cent). Since the CPC tends to welcome students from good-quality universities, the survey samples comprised a higher proportion of CPC members or probationary members.42

Previous studies on Chinese nationalism have suggested that people who are poor, have a rural family background, and are members of the CPC, express a higher nationalist sentiment than those who are from middle-class urban families without CPC membership.43 Given that the aforementioned nationalism-prone factors are not [End Page 11] overrepresented in the sample and that nearly one-third (31.25 per cent) replied that either they or their family member(s)/relative(s) had been infected by COVID-19 (an experience, the author presumes, that would have a negative impact on nationalism),44 the author is confident that the sample is unlikely to be biased towards strong nationalism.

Apart from the section about students' basic characteristics, the questionnaire is divided into three parts: Part I pertains to evaluation of the state performance in tackling COVID-19; Part II concerns the change in nationalist sentiment; and Part III covers the response to the other nations and foreign-related matters. Specifically, Part I solicits from respondents their perceived level of satisfaction from a list of policies and initiatives to fight the coronavirus at two levels of the state: the central (zhongyang) and the local (difang). At the central government level, the list consists of 19 items directly under the purview of the Party-central of Beijing, including the "establishment of a leading group on the epidemic" and the "lockdown of Wuhan".45 At the local government level, the list consists of 18 items under the command of local governments, including "adoption of surveillance and alert measures related to the public", and "use of health QR code".46 Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with each item by choosing one of the five Likert-scale responses: "very unsatisfactory" (score=1), "unsatisfactory" (score=2), "average" (score=3), "satisfactory" (score=4) and "very satisfactory" (score=5). [End Page 12]

Part II and Part III of the questionnaire gauge the nationalism-related experiences of the respondents. For the design of these two parts, the author takes reference from Wei's tripartite formulation of nationalism.47 Part II operationalises the first two dimensions in terms of the respondents' level of trust and belief in the virtues of the Chinese nation and politics, and China's tactics to protect lives during the outbreak. Part III operationalises the third dimension by appealing to the respondents' nationalistic expressions regarding their likes and dislikes of other nations, and of foreign-related matters.

In concrete terms, Part II consists of seven items related to the nationalist dimensions of "national pride and superiority" (six items) and "hawkishness in geopolitical diplomacy" (one item). The six items on "national pride and superiority" are divided into four subcategories: identity belief (one item: "Pride in being Chinese"), political trust (three items: "China's centralised strategy to 'mobilise all means to deal with big issues' (jizhong liliang ban dashi) is advantageous"; "The government has the right to expropriate personal property in case of epidemic emergency"; "The government has the right to use and disclose people's personal information during the epidemic outbreak"); economic trust (one item: "We should give priority to supporting the development of national enterprises"); and cultural trust (one item: "Chinese culture is superior to other cultures"). The item on "hawkishness in geopolitical diplomacy", involves the statement: "China should have a greater say in international affairs". Respondents were asked—since the outbreak—their attitude towards each statement item by choosing one of the four responses: (i) "disagree all along", or (ii) "agreed more strongly before, but agree less now", or (iii) "agreed less before, but agree more strongly now", or (iv) "agree all along".

Part III consists of 10 items that measure the level of the respondents' "hostility to other nations" since the outbreak. The first five items ask respondents to rate their opinion of (i) President Donald Trump, (ii) the US government, (iii) the Japanese government, (iv) the Italian government and (v) foreigners in China. Respondents were asked to reply by picking one out of five Likert-scale responses: "very bad" (score=1), "bad" (score=2), "average" (score=3), "good" (score=4) and "very good" (score=5). The last five items ask respondents to rate the possibility of (i) "rejecting internships or job offers by well-known foreign companies"; (ii) "rejecting offers of studying overseas by well-known foreign universities"; (iii) "expressing dissatisfaction with foreigners on different occasions"; (iv) "rejecting the opportunity to travel abroad"; and (v) "refusing to purchase foreign products". Respondents were asked to express their opinion by picking one of the five responses: "very unlikely" (score=1), "unlikely" (score=2), "average" (score=3), "likely" (score=4) and "very likely" (score=5). [End Page 13]


Young people are satisfied with the Chinese government's policies and initiatives in fighting COVID-19. Out of the full score of 5, the mean scores for rating different policy/initiative items at the central government and local government levels are 4.00 (range=3.95–4.05; SD=0.21) and 3.81 (range=3.76–3.83; SD=0.20), respectively. The respondents expressed a higher level of satisfaction with the performance of the central government than with that of their local governments. This pattern echoes the bifurcated perception of the Chinese state identified by many scholars in that the actors possess two different views of the state at the same time. While people tend to perceive the "central government" as more caring and benevolent, they regard the "local government" as more mercenary and malevolent.48 A t-test of the mean score difference (0.19) between the respondents' reported satisfaction with the policies and initiatives of the central government and that with the local government suggests that the difference is statistically significant (t-value=22.93; df=1199; p=.00). Among different policies and initiatives instigated by the central government, respondents were most satisfied with "China's assistance to countries affected by the epidemic" (4.05) and "virus research and vaccine development" (4.05); they were, relatively speaking, least satisfied with "construction of temporary hospitals" (3.95). At the local government level, the respondents were most satisfied with "implementation of the community/village closure management" (3.83) and were least satisfied with "mobilization of volunteers" (3.76). Their response patterns exhibit a good alignment with what has been publicised by the CPC's propaganda machine, namely that China has adopted effective measures not only to control the outbreak, but also to help other countries in need.49

Has nationalist sentiment of Chinese youth grown during the COVID-19 pandemic? The findings, by the prevalence of "yes" in self-reported survey samples, show this to be the case. According to Table 2, for all six items on "national pride and superiority" and one item on "hawkishness in geopolitical diplomacy", almost half of the respondents reported "agreed less before, but agree more strongly now" (range=46.58–51.33 per cent). And, given that almost half the respondents had indicated that they "agreed all along" to all these items (range=47.50–51.42 per cent), [End Page 14] the degree of nationalist sentiment of young people in China had doubled six months after the COVID-19 outbreak. When referring to the findings of Wei's recent survey data on nationalism which was collected from 311 elite university students in Hangzhou in 2019, it was found that the overall level of nationalism perceived by an examination of the author's samples before the outbreak is similar to that by examining the samples in Wei's study. For example, around half of Wei's respondents reported that they "agree/strongly agree" with the statements "China has already become a world power" (51.30 per cent) and "Military force should be used to recover the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands" (49.51 per cent).50 This observation boosts the author's confidence in attributing the surge in youth nationalism identified in mid-2020 chiefly to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Table 2. R' N S
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Table 2.

Respondents' Nationalistic Sentiments

Subsequent logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify factors which are significantly predictive of the surge in nationalist sentiment. Technically, the analyses were to locate those variables which were significantly associated with the respondents' response "agreed less before, but agree more strongly now" to seven statements regarding nationalism as the dependent variable while taking those who responded "agree all along" as the reference group (see Table 3). Substantiating the literature, certain structural (e.g. income, educational level, political background) and habitual (e.g. length of online time spent on news) factors are found to be significantly associated with the surge of nationalism. However, these structural/habitual factors were found mainly to [End Page 15] predict the surge in economic and cultural trust. According to Table 3, respondents who had a lower family income and had previously studied abroad were more likely to feel the need to show more support for state-led enterprises in times of national emergency. Respondents who had obtained high grades in university experienced significantly higher recognition of the superiority of Chinese culture than before. Respondents who reported having the political status of a "non-party personage" and who spent more time online reading news, however, were less likely to express more recognition of the superiority of Chinese culture during the crisis. Most are intellectuals and have been recognised by the state as making positive contributions to society. For other subcategories under the dimension "national pride and superiority", only one statement (out of three) about political trust—"The government has the right to expropriate personal property in case of epidemic emergency"—received significant support from the structural/habitual factor ("length of online time spent on news"). The surge of positive responses was predicted mainly, if not exclusively, by a number of contingent, even emotional factors, including one's perceived satisfaction with the state's COVID-19 policies and initiatives, opinions on foreign governments, dislike of foreigners and buying foreign products.

Then, in general, the surge in nationalist sentiment regarding identity belief, political trust and China's role in international affairs was determined by respondents' positive evaluations of China's contribution in containing the virus and their negative evaluations of other nations and foreign-related matters. This response pattern suggests that the actors' outburst of anger triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is more a temporary than a long-standing reflection of anti-foreign nationalism embedded in people's minds. The surge in nationalist sentiment will subside as the pandemic threat becomes less severe and the tensions between China and the other nations become less intense. This implication echoes Zhao's work which examines the "situational" nature of nationalist sentiment among 1,211 Peking University students four months after the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999.51 Zhao found that most students believed that the embassy bombing was intentional, and felt highly negative about the US government. However, Zhao argues that the young people's hate was temporary and contingent to the changing international relations rather than a true reflection of long-term anti-American nationalism.

Although the factors that predict the surge in nationalist sentiment are found to be more contingent/emotional than structural/habitual, the author's findings still reflect that Chinese young people had become more nationalistic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Table 2 suggests that 97.25 to 98.83 per cent of respondents agree—either "agree all along" or "agreed less before, but agree more strongly now"—with the seven items related to nationalism. This leads to the next question: Does such an outpouring [End Page 16] of nationalism prompt respondents to express a high level of "hostility to other nations"? The answer is yes and no.

Table 4 shows that respondents reported a hostile attitude towards foreign nations, deeming "the US government" (91.17 per cent), "President Donald Trump" (81.75 per cent), "the Japanese government" (51.17 per cent), "the Italian government" (60.00 per cent), and "foreigners in China" (79.17 per cent) as "bad/very bad". The respondents' particularly strong hostility against the US government and President Trump can be interpreted as their response to Trump's offensive remarks against the Asian population and the escalating tensions in US–China relations after the outbreak.52 One can gain a deeper understanding of the author's respondents' hostility to Trump and his administration by comparing it to the finding in Wei's 2019 study in which 64.40 per cent of his respondents "agree/strongly agree" with the statement that "US policy is aimed to contain China's rise".53 By comparison, respondents in Wei's study had a slightly better impression of other governments than the respondents in the author's study did.

Table 3. L R A S N S
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Table 3.

Logistic Regression Analysis of the Surge in Nationalist Sentiment

[End Page 17] However, respondents' hostility towards foreign nations, in particular the United States, does not seem to synchronise in the same direction or proportion with their foreign-related behaviour that reflects personal interests. For example, most respondents reported that they were "unlikely/very unlikely" to reject offers of work or of internships in well-known foreign companies (70.50 per cent) or to reject study opportunities in well-known foreign universities (78.50 per cent) (Table 4). More specifically, among the 1,094 respondents who expressed a "bad/very bad" opinion of the US government, 78.34 per cent reported that they were "unlikely/very unlikely" to reject studying abroad in well-known universities, and 71.12 per cent reported being "unlikely/very unlikely" to reject overseas work/internship opportunities in well-known companies, including those in the United States. Furthermore, while 79.17 per cent of respondents held a "bad/very bad" opinion of "foreigners in China", only 5.08 per cent reported being "likely/very likely" to express dissatisfaction with foreigners on different occasions, and most (84.58 per cent) took the ambivalent position of "average". Such ambivalent reactions towards foreign-related matters are also seen in their responses to travelling abroad and purchasing foreign products. It was found that fewer than 10 per cent of respondents explicitly indicated that they were "likely/very likely" to reject travelling overseas (5.25 per cent) or buying foreign products in the future (9.75 per cent). And the large majority expressed the view that the possibility of boycotting travelling abroad (90.00 per cent) and buying foreign products (85.92 per cent) was "average". As is evident, the nationalist sentiment of Chinese young people is bifurcated in that they have hostile feelings towards foreign nations, but are welcoming to opportunities of working and studying overseas. Regarding other "patriotic" actions that may affect one's personal interests, such as criticising foreigners, boycotting travelling abroad and foreign products, most express feelings of ambivalence rather than explicit rejection. The author shall discuss in the next section the implications of what he terms bifurcated nationalism. [End Page 18]

Table 4. R' R N F M
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Table 4.

Respondents' Responses to other Nations and Foreign-related Matters


This study, based on a sample of 1,200 students from a sample of 20 universities, supports the claim in the literature that there was a surge in nationalism during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings suggest that the proportion of respondents who marked "agree" regarding the seven items on "national pride and superiority" and "hawkishness in geopolitical diplomacy" had doubled six months after the outbreak. Nationalist sentiment among Chinese young people was overwhelmingly strong as nearly all (ranging from 97.25 to 98.83 per cent) of them agree—either "agree all along" or "agreed less before, but agree more strongly now"—with the seven survey items regarding nationalism. Such a high nationalist mood seems to have spilled over to their hostile attitude towards other nations, e.g. most of the respondents hold a "bad/very bad" opinion of "the US government" (91.17 per cent), "President Trump" (81.75 per cent), and "foreigners in China" (79.17 per cent).

In juxtaposition with the upsurge of nationalist sentiment is respondents' strong support for state policies and initiatives to tackle the outbreak. They generally consider the state performance as "satisfactory" with a mean score of 4.00 out of 5 for the central government level and 3.81 out of 5 for the local government level. It is worth highlighting that Chinese young people also express satisfaction with state measures that adopt a coercive approach (e.g. "implementation of community/village closure management") and new surveillance technologies (e.g. the "health QR code") to exert tight control on people's everyday life during the outbreak. Respondents' satisfaction with these privacy-intrusive measures is evidence of the strong political trust they reportedly have in the government. Findings have shown that almost all of the [End Page 19] respondents agree—either "agree all along" or "agreed less before, but agree more strongly now"—that the government has the right to both use and disclose people's personal information (98.83 per cent) and expropriate personal property (98.00 per cent) in times of epidemic emergency. All of the empirical evidence supports Kloet and colleagues who argue that Beijing's use of biopolitical techniques to strengthen its control over people has been successful because the people seem to welcome or even enjoy the control, and many people consider it as having conveyed a sense of security in the face of life threats.54

During the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2003, Beijing was successful in strengthening the cohesion of people and promoting their national pride. This was achieved through the implementation of stringent public health policies to control the spread, and through defusing public attention by promoting nationalism via different political propaganda channels.55 Such a successful experience of intensifying nationalist sentiment during that public health crisis seems to have been replicated during the COVID-19 outbreak. The surge of the nationalism combined with the strong support for state policies and strong hostility to other nations amid the COVID-19 crisis all reflect the positive attitude of young people towards the Chinese nation which has been succinctly summarised by Kloet et al. in this statement: "we are doing it well, we are actually doing it better, better than others". Along this line, when observers stated that the coronavirus would "become 'China's Chernobyl'—a catastrophe that would harm the party's domestic legitimacy and international prestige",56 they were at least half wrong. While the CPC's international image may suffer long-term damage, the regime still enjoys high public support at home.

While previous studies on Chinese nationalism suggest that structural and habitual factors such as educational background, household income, political status and time spent reading online news and information significantly predict the nationalist sentiment of Chinese people, these relationships are only partially corroborated in this study. Among the seven items on nationalism, structural and habitual factors significantly predict only the surge of the two subcategories of nationalism: economic trust and cultural trust. For the other five items that involve other nationalist elements—identity belief, political trust and the state's assertiveness in international politics—the structural/habitual factors demonstrate either mild, or no significant statistical support. Instead, the surge was predicted mainly by a number of contingent and/or emotional factors, such as one's perceived satisfaction with the state's COVID-19 policies and initiatives, opinions of foreign governments, and dislike of foreigners and of buying foreign [End Page 20] products. This response pattern suggests that the actors' triggering-off of a psychological defence of the Chinese nation due to the current crisis is more temporary than a reflection of their long-standing anti-foreign nationalism. This observation is in line with the argument by Zhao, mentioned above, regarding the temporary and contingent rise in the youth's anti-American nationalism after the 1999 US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.57

One of the interesting findings in this article is the bifurcated pattern of Chinese youth in expressing nationalist sentiment. While the majority of respondents reported having a "bad/very bad" opinion of other nations (e.g. the United States), they expressed a strong unwillingness to reject opportunities to study and work abroad and hesitated to boycott overseas travel or the purchase of foreign products. Bifurcated nationalism thus refers to people's ostensible schizoid attitude of holding a strong patriotic view in defence of their own nation on the one hand; but when it comes to certain "patriotic" actions that may affect their personal interests, they tend to express a more open, receptive, or even embracive attitude towards other nations. One should be aware that signs of bifurcated nationalism were detected by Zhao two decades ago when he argued that there was a lack of domination of anti-American nationalism among China's elite college students. Zhao observed that many college students who were angered by the aggressive US actions towards China still preferred to work or study abroad in Western countries.58 The author's findings also echo Huang's experimental and survey data that suggested that Chinese citizens' interest in going abroad is by nature more about socio-economic aspirations than political yearnings.59 Such a pattern of feeling–action dissonance is by no means novel in everyday life. For example, a man who hates his wife may insist on sticking it out with the relationship; or a professor who feels hostile about the American government may still love to work in an American university. But, when such bifurcated sentiment is felt by an actor who straddles two countries in political tension, it possesses a different set of implications in the national security of the two countries. There are at least two such implications that past studies have failed to highlight.

First, the author's findings suggest that the young people's nationalist sentiment against Western countries is "situational" and, by extension, could be aggravated or die down depending on external events and how these events are propagandised by the CPC. However, the willingness on the part of Chinese young people to embrace study and work opportunities in Western countries is found to persist despite the ups and downs of their hostility towards the West. This may constrain the ability of the CPC to effectively pursue its national interests if, for example, China's international [End Page 21] relations with Western countries reach such a point of hostility that Beijing wants to discourage its people from freely travelling overseas, or purchasing foreign products in order to reduce its dependence on the West and keep up its foreign currency reserves in preparation for future possible escalating enmity.60 If this happens, will the bifurcated nationalist sentiment arouse negative feelings among Chinese towards Beijing's ironclad policies on foreign affairs? Second, bifurcated nationalism should prompt scholars and observers to note the immigration policies of Western countries, especially at a time of China's growing tension with the West. The most ideal immigrants to Western countries would be those who "like-us-and-want-to-come". The less ideal migrants are those who "dislike-us-and-don't-want-to-come". Bifurcated nationalism, however, offers a third type, and perhaps, the least ideal type of migrant—those "who-dislike-us-butwant-to-come". This third type of migrants—probably the worst type from an international relations perspective—would possibly constitute a national security threat to Western countries when their relationship with Beijing turns frosty. The foreign governments would then find it highly difficult to ensure that the young talented Chinese immigrants are benefitting Western countries through working and studying there, rather than doing something behind-the-scenes to pursue the national interests of the rival CPC regime in foreign lands. The phenomenon of bifurcated nationalism thus opens up new routes into understanding China's potential escalating tension with Western countries in the future. [End Page 22]

Ho Wing-Chung

Ho Wing-Chung ( is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences at City University of Hong Kong. He obtained his PhD in Anthropology from SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London. His research interests include community studies and social problems in relation to subordinate people in Hong Kong and Chinese societies.


1. Peter C. Pugsley, "Constructing the Hero: Nationalistic News Narratives in Contemporary China", Westminster Papers in Communication & Culture 3, no. 1 (2006): 78–93; see also Peter Hays Gries, China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004); Zhao Suisheng, A Nation-state by Construction: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

2. Wang Jiayu, "Representing Chinese Nationalism/Patriotism through President Xi Jinping's 'Chinese Dream' Discourse", Journal of Language and Politics 16, no. 6 (2017): 830–48, esp. 830.

3. Pugsley, "Constructing the Hero"; Yoon Sung-Won, "Sovereign Dignity, Nationalism and the Health of a Nation: A Study of China's Response in Combat of Epidemics", Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 8, no. 1 (2008): 80–100.

4. For example, Brian G. Carlson, "Coronavirus: A Double-edged Sword for China", Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich, CSS Analyses in Security Policy 267 (2020), at <> [14 May 2022]; Pei Minxin, "China's Coming Upheaval: Competition, the Coronavirus, and the Weakness of Xi Jinping", Foreign Affairs 99, no. 3 (2020): 82–95.

5. Yu Xiang and Li Na, "How did Chinese Government Implement Unconventional Measures against COVID-19 Pneumonia?", Risk Management and Health Care Policy 13 (2020): 491–9.

6. Carlson, "Coronavirus", p. 3.

7. Carlson, "Coronavirus"; Pei, "China's Coming Upheaval"; Atul Bhardwaj, "COVID-19 and US–China Tussle", Economic and Political Weekly 55, no. 17 (2020): 10–2; Tabguy Struye de Swielande, "China: From Coronavirus to Conspiracy Virus", Centre d'étude des Crises et Conflits Internationaux (CECRI), Université Catholique de Louvain, CECRI Commentary Paper no. 65, 19 March 2020, at <> [14 May 2022]; Jeroen de Kloet, Lin Jian and Chow Yiu Fai, "'We are Doing Better': Biopolitical Nationalism and the COVID-19 Virus in East Asia", European Journal of Cultural Studies 23, no. 4 (2020): 635–40.

8. Alastair Iain Johnston, "Is Chinese Nationalism Rising? Evidence from Beijing", International Security 41, no. 3 (2017): 7–43.

9. Johnston, "Is Chinese Nationalism Rising?", p. 9.

10. For example, Zhao Dingxin, The Power of Tiananmen: State–Society Relations and the 1989 Student Movement (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013); Lin Fen, Sun Yanfei and Yang Hongxing, "How are Chinese Students Ideologically Divided? A Survey of Chinese College Students' Political Self-identification", Pacific Affairs 88, no. 1 (2015): 51–74.

11. Eva Green, Oriane Sarrasin, Nicole Fasel and Christian Staerklé, "Nationalism and Patriotism as Predictors of Immigration Attitudes in Switzerland: A Municipality-level Analysis", Swiss Political Science Review 17, no. 4 (2011): 369–93.

12. For example, Liu Chuyu and Ma Xiao, "Popular Threats and Nationalistic Propaganda: Political Logic of China's Patriotic Campaign", Security Studies 27, no. 4 (2018): 633–64; Abanti Bhattacharya, "Chinese Nationalism under Xi Jinping Revisited", India Quarterly 75, no. 2 (2019): 245–52.

13. Wang, "Representing Chinese Nationalism", p. 830. Johnston also found that the average monthly number of articles in the state-run People's Daily (2012–16) that used the term "the great revival of the Chinese nation" had increased from 40 to 90. See Johnston, "Is Chinese Nationalism Rising?", p. 39.

14. Bhattacharya, "Chinese Nationalism under Xi Jinping Revisited", p. 249.

15. Christopher Cairns and Allen Carlson, "Real-world Islands in a Social Media Sea: Nationalism and Censorship on Weibo during the 2012 Diaoyu/Senkaku Crisis", The China Quarterly 225 (2016): 23–49.

16. Hyun Ki Deuk, Kim Jinhee and Sun Shaojing, "News Use, Nationalism, and Internet Use Motivations as Predictors of Anti-Japanese Political Actions in China", Asian Journal of Communication 24, no. 6 (2014): 589–604; Hyun Ki Deuk and Kim Jinhee, "The Role of New Media in Sustaining the Status Quo: Online Political Expression, Nationalism, and System Support in China", Information, Communication & Society 18, no. 7 (2015): 766–81.

17. Hongping Annie Nie, "Gaming, Nationalism, and Ideological Work in Contemporary China: Online Games Based on the War of Resistance against Japan", Journal of Contemporary China 22, no. 81 (2013): 499–517; Peter Hays Gries, Derek Steiger and Wang Tao, "Popular Nationalism and China's Japan Policy: The Diaoyu Islands Protests, 2012–2013", Journal of Contemporary China 25, no. 98 (2016): 264–76.

18. Fang Kecheng and Maria Repnikova, "Demystifying 'Little Pink': The Creation and Evolution of a Gendered Label for Nationalistic Activists in China", New Media & Society 20, no. 6 (2018): 2162–85, esp. 2162; see also Yang Lijun and Lim Chee Kia, "Three Waves of Nationalism in Contemporary China: Sources, Themes, Presentations and Consequences", International Journal of China Studies 1, no. 2 (2010): 461–85; Chen Zhuo, Su Chao and Chen Anfan, "Top-down or Bottom-up? A Network Agenda-setting Study of Chinese Nationalism on Social Media", Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 63, no. 3 (2019): 512–33.

19. Fang and Repnikova, "Demystifying 'Little Pink'", p. 2163.

20. For example, Zhuang Pinghui, "The Rise of the Little Pinks: China's Angry Young Digital Warriors", South China Morning Post, 26 May 2017.

21. For example, Hyun and Kim, "The Role of New Media in Sustaining the Status Quo", p. 768.

22. Han Rongbin, "Manufacturing Consent in Cyberspace: China's 'Fifty-Cent Army'", Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 44, no. 2 (2015): 105–34.

23. Fang and Repnikova, "Demystifying 'Little Pink'", pp. 2165–6.

24. John J. Schwarzmantel, "Class and Nation: Problems of Socialist Nationalism", Political Studies 35, no. 2 (1987): 239–55, esp. 243.

25. Wei Zikui, "China's Little Pinks? Nationalism among Elite University Students in Hangzhou", Asian Survey 59, no. 5 (2019): 822–43, esp. 825, fn13.

26. Anthony D. Smith, "Nationalism", in Encyclopedia of Government and Politics, ed. Mary Hawkesworth and Maurice Kogan (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 111–27, esp. 114; Liu Hong, "New Migrants and the Revival of Overseas Chinese Nationalism", Journal of Contemporary China 14, no. 43 (2005): 291–316, esp. 301.

27. Bart Bonikowski, "Nationalism in Settled Times", Annual Review of Sociology 42, no. 1 (2016): 427–39, esp. 427.

28. Wei, "China's Little Pinks?", p. 825.

29. Wu Guoguang, "From Post-imperial to Late Communist Nationalism: Historical Change in Chinese Nationalism from May Fourth to the 1990s", Third World Quarterly 29, no. 3 (2008): 467–82, esp. 478–9.

30. Liu, "New Migrants and the Revival of Overseas Chinese Nationalism", p. 300 (author Ho Wing-Chung's emphases).

31. Wei, "China's Little Pinks?", p. 827 (author Ho Wing-Chung's emphases).

32. Ibid., p. 826.

33. Schwarzmantel, "Class and Nation", p. 244.

34. Ibid., p. 239.

35. Zhao Suisheng, "Chinese Nationalism and Its International Orientations", Political Science Quarterly 115, no. 1 (2000): 1–33, esp. 2–3.

36. C. Simon Fan, The Socioeconomics of Nationalism in China: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis, 2022).

37. Christopher Hughes, "Reclassifying Chinese Nationalism: The Geopolitik Turn", Journal of Contemporary China 20, no. 71 (2011): 601–20.

38. The first category ("first-tier universities") includes Tsinghua University, Peking University, Wuhan University, Zhejiang University and Sun Yat-sen University. The second category includes the University of Science and Technology, Beijing, Shanghai University, Fuzhou University, Central China Normal University and Chang'an University. The third category includes Hubei University, Heilongjiang University, Hebei University, Xiangtan University and Huaqiao University. The fourth category includes Beijing Polytechnic Institute, Nanjing Vocational Institute of Industry Technology, Hubei Polytechnic Institute, Shandong Institute of Commerce and Technology, and Zhejiang Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

39. The survey was conducted with the help of the alumni association or the student union of the chosen colleges/universities as they had the most updated student databases; these organisations sent out only the online questionnaire and did not intervene in any other aspects of the data collection process.

40. In China, "nonparty personage" refers to people who do not participate in any political party, but have expressed desire and capability to participate in and discuss state affairs The author's definition of "nonparty personage" is based on Zhang Wei, Xu Xiaolin, Zhang Hui and Chen Qiang, "Online Participation Chaos: A Case Study of Chinese Government-initiated e-Polity Square", International Journal of Public Administration 39, no. 14 (2016): 1195–202, esp. 1197.

41. One may query the unconventionally high proportion of the samples that have overseas study experience. The author would like to emphasise that the questionnaire item also included the term "short-term exchange programme". In recent years, mainland universities have cooperated with many overseas universities and carried out a large number of exchange programmes, including summer schools. And, given that the higher than normal number of students in the samples were elite students, the proportion who claimed to have had overseas study experience was higher than the general student population.

42. Probationary members of the CPC are those who have passed inspection by Party organisations for at least one year and are allowed to participate normally in their activities. After one more year of inspection, they will become full members. Probationary members are very close to being full members.

43. Tang Wenfang and Benjamin Darr, "Chinese Nationalism and Its Political and Social Origins", Journal of Contemporary China 21, no. 77 (2012): 811–26; Lin, Sun and Yang, "How are Chinese Students Ideologically Divided?"; Gries, Steiger and Wang, "Popular Nationalism"; Johnston, "Is Chinese Nationalism Rising?" Wei, "China's Little Pinks?".

44. An infection rate of nearly one-third was considered extremely (and also surprisingly) high. As of 6 July 2020—the deadline for the questionnaire return—the Chinese government reported 83,022 cumulative infection cases of COVID-19, equivalent to only about 0.006 per cent of the whole Chinese population. Since there appeared no obvious motivation to exaggerate the infection of COVID-19 on the part of the informants, this raises the issue of underreporting of cases in official statistics which is, however, beyond the scope of this article.

45. The list of 19 items and their scores (in descending order) are: provision of assistance to other countries affected by the epidemic (4.05); virus research and vaccine development (4.05); application of traditional Chinese medicine to cure the infected (4.02); joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council (4.01); replacement of key leaders of Wuhan and the Hubei province (4.01); construction of Raytheon and Vulcan hospitals in Wuhan (4.01); prevention of imports from abroad (4.01); early monitoring and warning (4.00); release of information to the public about the epidemic (4.00); mobilisation of national medical forces to support Wuhan and Hubei province (4.00); guidance of the central leadership on the work team in Hubei province (3.99); lockdown of Wuhan (3.99); resumption of work and production (3.99); establishment of a leading group on the epidemic (3.98); management of public opinion (3.98); resumption of classes (3.98); allocation of medical and daily supplies (3.97); establishment of an epidemic response expert group (3.96) and construction of temporary hospitals all over the country (3.95).

46. The list of 18 items and their scores (in descending order) are: management of closed-down communities/villages (3.83); surveillance and early warnings of the epidemic (3.82); release of information to the public about the epidemic (3.82); management of public opinion (3.82); medical treatment and reimbursement (3.82); use of health QR code (3.82); traffic and transport control (3.82); resumption of classes (3.82); allocation and supply of medical and daily necessities (3.81); wear-a-mask and wash-your-hands measures (3.81); measures on reducing mass gatherings (3.81); prevention of imports from abroad (3.81); express logistics service (3.8); in-house and centralised isolation (3.8); resumption of work and production (3.8); virus detection (3.79); social donations (3.78); mobilisation of volunteers (3.76).

47. To reiterate, these are: (i) national pride and superiority; (ii) hawkishness in geopolitical diplomacy; and (iii) hostility to other nations.

48. Guo Xiaolin, "Land Expropriation and Rural Conflicts in China", The China Quarterly 166 (2001): 422–39, esp. 435; Lee Ching Kwan, "State and Social Protest", Daedalus 143, no. 2 (2014): 124–34, esp. 126; Ho Wing Chung, "Repertoires of Contention against Repressive State Power: A Case Study of Three Gorges Dam Migrants Petitioning Beijing", Mobilization: An International Quarterly 25, no. SI (2020): 691–710.

49. While some in the foreign media heavily criticised Beijing's wrongdoings, such as offering poor-quality medical equipment to other countries and hiding the truth of the human-to-human transmission potential of the virus at the early stage of the outbreak, the study's respondents expressed quite the opposite view. For example, they deemed "China's assistance to countries affected by the epidemic" (4.05) the most satisfactory policy/initiative initiated by the central government. They also gave a high rating to Beijing's measures to ensure "early monitoring and warning" (4.00, eighth out of 19 items). Such findings suggest that the international criticism of Beijing's mistakes has had a limited negative impact on Chinese young people.

50. Wei, "China's Little Pinks?", p. 833.

51. Zhao Dingxin, "An Angle on Nationalism in China Today: Attitudes among Beijing Students after Belgrade 1999", The China Quarterly 172 (2002): 885–905.

52. Amy Fairchild, Lawrence Gostin and Ronald Bayer, "Vexing, Veiled, and Inequitable: Social Distancing and the 'Rights' Divide in the Age of COVID-19", The American Journal of Bioethics 20, no. 7 (2020): 1–7. Although Trump's remarks were not necessarily related to the pandemic itself, Trump did capitalise on the pandemic to stir up anti-China sentiments among Americans. While the pandemic itself was perhaps not the main cause for the anti-China sentiments, the authors deem it to have provided a catalyst that consolidated the hostile sentiments.

53. Wei, "China's Little Pinks?", p. 833.

54. Kloet, Lin and Chow, "'We Are Doing Better'", p. 636. At the time of revising this article (April–May 2022), the stringent COVID-19 lockdown measures for over two months in Shanghai had aroused many grievances of the residents against the state action. To what extent the experience of Shanghai has an impact on people's high level of acceptance of state control on personal rights since the COVID-19 outbreak requires further investigation.

55. Yoon, "Sovereign Dignity, Nationalism and the Health of a Nation".

56. Carlson, "Coronavirus", p. 2.

57. Zhao, "An Angle on Nationalism".

58. Zhao Dingxin, "Student Nationalism in China", Problems of Post-Communism 49, no. 6 (2002): 16–28.

59. Huang Haifeng, "International Knowledge and Domestic Evaluations in a Changing Society: The Case of China", American Political Science Review 109, no. 3 (2015): 613–34, esp. 613; Huang Haifeng, "Who Wants to Leave China?", Journal of East Asian Studies 17, no. 2 (2017): 191–213, esp. 192.

60. At the time of revising this article, this seems to be what is happening. Beijing paused passport renewals for its citizens, ostensibly in the name of its attempt to keep COVID-19 variants out of the country. But some critics suspected that the larger objective of this measure is to alleviate the falling trend of China's foreign reserves which reached a 17-month low in April 2020 and had maintained a general downtrend since, which is unfavourable to the Chinese international position in competing with the United States. See, for example, "China's March Forex Reserves Fall More Than Expected to 17-Month Low", Reuters, 7 April 2020, at <> [20 May 2022]; "China's Forex Reserves Fall by US$26 Billion amid Ongoing Capital Outflows Following Russian Invasion of Ukraine", South China Morning Post, 7 April 2022, at <> [20 May 2022]; "China Says not Granting Passport Renewals for Non-essential Travel", The Economic Times, 12 February 2022, at <> [20 May 2022]; "Beijing Control Forex Reserves", Kan Zhongguo (Vision Times), 3 May 2022, at <> [20 May 2022].