GUNS VS. BUTTER IN CHINA

There have been a lot of articles in the media recently about the rise of Chinese nationalism, with experts worrying that public opinion could push the country into war. We wanted to find out whether this was likely, so we asked ordinary Chinese citizens what they thought. The results were quite surprising.

Carrying out political polling in China can be tricky, so rather than simply asking participants for their opinions, we gave them two mocked-up articles to read - one about a nationalist protest and one about an economic protest - and asked them to reflect on the feelings and demands of the protesters, as well as to suggest outcomes likely to be acceptable to protesters, ordinary citizens and the authorities in each case.

We found that rather than being intended to put pressure on the Chinese government, nationalist protests are primarily directed at China's enemies and competitors abroad. Protesters are not necessarily interested in forcing a policy change, but rather in showing their fighting spirit and expressing their strong patriotic emotions.

By contrast, economic protests are a negotiating strategy used by ordinary citizens who wish to change specific items of government policy and protect their own interests. Crucially, we found that if a government fails to give in to citizens' demands on concrete, day-to-day economic and quality-of-life issues it is liable to lose its popular legitimacy.

Want to know more? You can read the full report here.