Ideological Polarization Over a China-as-Superpower Mindset: An Exploratory Charting of Belief Systems Among Chinese Internet Users, 2008-2011
International Journal of Communication, 8, 2243–2272.
28 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2014 Last revised: 16 Aug 2014
Date Written: July 6, 2013
This study explores ideological polarization among Chinese Internet users by examining both the structure of local belief systems, and temporal changes of opinions. It implements research tools investigating voters’ cognition and behavior in democratic societies, including those concerning Internet use and political polarization. To probe this sensitive terrain, it employs network and relational class analysis to a unique historical dataset — online records of the “Chinese Political Compass” self-assessment (中国政治坐标系测试; 2008-2011). Results demonstrate that the overarching ideological division of the Chinese Internet is split between nationalism and cultural liberalism. Groups of “ideologues” and “agnostics” that differentially contributed to overall rapid polarization were also identified. The study further speculates how, in nondemocratic societies, Internet use may influence people’s political views through different mechanisms.
Keywords: belief system, China, Internet, polarization, public opinion, semantic network, nationalism
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