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Nationalist Protest in China

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NATIONALIST PROTESTS: SIGNALING RESOLVE AND TYING HANDSANALYSIS: ANTI-JAPANESE PROTESTS AS A BARGAINING TACTICALTERNATIVE EXPLANATIONSAutocratic Audiences, International Bargaining, and Nationalist Protest in China Jessica Chen Weiss Assistant Professor Department of Political Science Yale University [email protected] In regard to China-Japan relations, reactions among youths, especially students, are strong. If difficult problems were to appear still further, it will become impossible to explain them to the people. It will become impossible to control them. I want you to understand this position which we are in. ― Deng Xiaoping, speaking to senior Japanese officials, June 28, 19871Policeman A: When do they arrive? Policeman B: 10:00 A.M. is the official start time. They’ll arrive around 9:45. Policeman A: Has it been approved? Policeman B: Definitely not approved, but the government has given tacit consent. This group plays by the rules. Before coming, they call the government and say, “tomorrow at 10?” ― Overheard by the author outside the Japanese Embassy, Beijing, China, June 2007 Recent research in international relations has shown that domestic constraints provide an important source of leverage in international disputes. Democratic leaders often claim that their hands are tied by constituents or parliamentarians (Schelling 1960; Milner 1997) who will punish them at the polls for backing down during diplomatic negotiations. These potential “audience costs” have been said to give democracies an advantage in international negotiations (e.g. Fearon 1994; Schultz 2001b). With a few recent exceptions (e.g. Weeks 2008), however, the literature has neglected the role of domestic audiences in autocratic states. Yet in many autocracies we observe popular protests demanding that the government stand up to international pressure and defend the national interest. Many autocracies that typically suppress displays of popular opposition nonetheless sometimes allow and even encourage protests against foreign targets. For example, tens of thousands of protesters took to the “Arab street” in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan during the 2008 Israeli offensive in Gaza. In the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, anti-American demonstrations were allowed in Egypt after protest organizers agreed not to criticize President 1 Whiting 1989:164, in translation from Cankao Xiaoxi, June 30, 1987.2 Hosni Mubarak.2Despite the plethora of examples on the front pages of world newspapers, the phenomenon of anti-foreign protest has not been systematically studied by social scientists. Indeed, protests against foreign targets are explicitly excluded by the widely-used Cross-National Time-Series Data Archive (Banks 2010) on internal unrest across regimes. To fill this gap, I develop a theory of anti-foreign protest, drawing inspiration from the literature on two-level games and international bargaining (e.g. Schelling 1960, 1966; Putnam 1988; Martin 1993; Evans et al 1993; Smith 1998; Leeds 1999; Ramsay 2004; Leventoglu and Tarar 2005; Slantchev 2006), social movements and popular protest (e.g. Tarrow 1998; Kuran 1991; Lohmann 1994), autocratic politics (e.g. Geddes 1991; Shirk 1993; Roeder 1993; Bueno de Mesquita et al. 1999; Goemans 2000; Gandhi and Przeworski 2006; Vreeland 2008), and nationalism (e.g. Haas 1986; Gellner 1983; Snyder 1991; van Evera 1994; Laitin 1998; Beissinger 2002). The core intuition is that anti-foreign protests may get out of hand and threaten regime stability. Protests that initially take aim at foreign targets may shift direction and criticize the regime itself. As one Egyptian official noted in 2003: That same year, demonstrators in Cambodia torched the Thai embassy, protesting purported Thai claims to Angkor Wat. In 2005, Iranian students formed human chains around Iranian nuclear reactors and demanded that the government resume uranium enrichment. We are extremely worried about the reaction of people on the day America starts bombing the Iraqi people…Maybe people will try to express anger at American actions, but they are in such a state of disappointment and resentment that they may also express anger against rising prices and the cost of living. It might be an opportunity to mix everything together. That's what everyone is worried about.3 2 The New York Times, March 12, 2003. 3 Susan Sachs, “Arab Nations Allow Antiwar Protests on Carefully Controlled Terms,” The New York Times, March 12, 2003.3 Even a small demonstration may trigger a cascade of further protests as citizens realize the ubiquity of discontent with the regime. Anti-foreign protests are especially dangerous because they may unite opponents of the regime under the protective banner of patriotism, particularly if the government appears to be caving to foreign pressure. Although autocrats typically suppress displays of anti-regime discontent, nationalist demonstrations against foreign targets are sometimes allowed or encouraged. In China, the government permitted anti-American protests in 1999 after the United States bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia but repressed anti-American protests in 2001 when a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided. Anti-Japanese protests were allowed in 1985, when the Japanese prime minister visited a controversial war shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, and again in 2005, when Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council began to gain momentum. By my count, anti-Japanese protests were permitted in China on 55 days between 1978 and 2007; on 16 occasions, the Chinese government nipped similar protests in the bud, whether by arresting participants at the outset or by preemptively detaining key organizers. 4 4 Using Japanese newspapers, FBIS, LexisNexis and several anti-Japanese activist websites operating out of mainland China and Hong Kong, I counted an anti-Japanese protest as having occurred if: two or more people were involved; Japan was the primary target; and the activity was held in a public location and sought to attract the attention and/or participation of bystanders. I thus excluded protests that made demands of the Chinese, British, or American governments to pressure Japan to change policy, as well as excursions by sea to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Personal interviews with anti-Japanese activists helped corroborate secondary reports. As is always


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