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Citizen attitudes towards China's maritime territorial disputes: traditional media and Internet usage as distinctive conduits of political views in China

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Information, Communication and Society
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)59-79
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date14/10/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper examines the differential impact of Chinese citizens’ use of traditional media and Internet sources on their political views about the country’s territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Chinese citizens can utilize a variety of conduits of information that allow varying degrees of government control over the way foreign affairs and other controversies are presented. Those who rely on mainstream, state-controlled television, radio, and printed media for information on the disputes, and those who turn to less-prescriptive sources on the Internet, can be expected to have distinctive political attitudes. We use original 2013 Chinese survey data to explore patterns of media consumption and citizens’ attention levels towards the Sino-Japanese island dispute, and views regarding the government’s performance in handling the issue and appropriate policy responses. Those who derive their information from traditional media tend to view the government’s performance more positively, and are more likely both to favour compromise and to oppose the use of military force. By comparison, information from Internet sources, which is more user selfselective, sustains a wider range of attitudes about the Sino-Japanese island dispute and the appropriate policies for dealing with it, including both militaristic and moderate stances. All told, we find that Chinese citizens bring distinctive predispositions to their consumption of media information on this issue, but our results also clearly reflect an ongoing, pervasive influence for China’s state-run traditional media. These findings have important implications for considering the resilience of authoritarian systems in the Internet era.