Political Repression, Media Propaganda, and Nation-building

81 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2023

Date Written: October 1, 2022


Nations are products of modernity, but they also have historical roots. In the conquest of China in the mid-17th century, the Manchu-led Qing government oppressed the Han Chinese, the native population of China. Two centuries later, when modern newspaper technology became available, revolutionary propagandists seized the opportunity to reframe the political repression as an ethnic conflict to fan the flames of discontent. Applying machine learning to analyze 0.3 million newspaper article titles, I find that prefectures characterized by repression and resistance responded to the anti-Manchu propaganda by producing more nationalist revolutionaries. Using the historical political cycle as the instrumental variable, I confirm the causal link. The proposed mechanism is the preservation of historical memories through deep cultural traits created by repression and resistance. After the 1911 Revolution, revolutionaries strove to establish a modern nation-state by organizing the Kuomintang (Nationalist) party, army, and government. The results indicate that propaganda utilizing historical repression and resistance shaped the political identity and played a pivotal role in the nation-building of modern China.

Keywords: political repression, newspapers, revolution, nation-building, China.

JEL Classification: D74, N45, P00, Z1

Suggested Citation

Li, Peiyuan, Political Repression, Media Propaganda, and Nation-building (October 1, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4424060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4424060

Peiyuan Li (Contact Author)

Duke Kunshan University ( email )

No. 8 Duke Avenue
Kunshan, Jiangsu 215316

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