Nationalist Netizens in China: Online Historical Memory
AbstractThe Chinese government is currently performing a delicate act of balance: attempting to foster a "healthy" nationalism among the young generation in China while, at the same time, having to deal with the at times rather loud and uncompromising expression of this nationalism online. By examining examples of online debates on issues of national interest; in this case the Spratly Islands and the animosity between a Chinese and a Japanese child, this article discusses the use of historical imagery in online historical debates and demonstrates a linkage between the version of Chinese history promulgated in the so-called patriotic education campaign and the rhetoric used online. Even though the viewpoints expressed in the two debates vary widely, the central theme of how to deal with China’s past plays a strong role in both debates. I argue that though the Chinese government has been rather successful in promoting this reliance on a certain historical perspective to understand present day China’s place in the world, the online nationalist expressions take on a life of their own partly due to China’s very special internet culture.
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