The Power of History: How A Victimization Narrative Shapes National Identity and Public Opinion in China
Research & Politics, Forthcoming
44 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2023 Last revised: 8 Mar 2023
Date Written: January 5, 2023
We study the effect of a victimization narrative on national identity and public opinion in China experimentally. Previous research has suggested that governments can shape public opinion by guiding citizens' collective memories of historical events, but few studies have established a clear causal link. By conducting an online survey experiment among approximately 2,000 urban Chinese citizens, we examine the causal impact of historical narratives on political attitudes. We find that, compared to control conditions, a narrative focusing on China’s humiliating past in the late Qing significantly reinforces respondents' attachment to the victim side of the Chinese national identity, raises suspicion of the intention of foreign governments in international disputes, stimulates preference for more hawkish foreign policies, and strengthens support for China's current political system. These effects are particularly strong among respondents without a college degree.
Keywords: historical narrative, collective memory, victimization, national identity, public opinion, foreign policy
JEL Classification: P35
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