Student nationalism in contemporary China
: a case study of learning and expressing nationalist sentiment in Shanghai

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is an examination of student nationalism in contemporary China. In addition to looking at student nationalism in China more generally, it analyses where and how nationalist sentiment is learned and how, when and why it is expressed. 
The first part of the thesis engages with the literature on both past and present student nationalism and activism in China, as well as theoretical conceptions of nation and nationalism and their application to the Chinese context. The main chapters of the thesis present and analyse data from a five-point Likert Scale survey-questionnaire (N=246) as well as data from semi- and un-structured interviews (N=21) and unstructured observations, including a visit to a national heritage site in Shanghai. 
These chapters analyse and explain where, how and why Chinese university students learn and express nationalist sentiment. To do this, I distinguish between ‘explicit learning’, which involves state education, media (including the internet) and family/friends, and ‘tacit learning’ in which I apply the concepts ‘Banal Nationalism’ and ‘Everyday Nationhood’ to the Chinese context. After having examined where nationalist thought and sentiment is learned, the thesis analyses how, why and where nationalism is explicitly expressed. Based on a factor analysis, it analyses forms and ways of both general expressions of nationalist sentiment and more advanced forms of expression. In addition to that, this thesis also examines students’ attitudes and sentiments towards other nations. Finally, it also briefly demonstrates and discusses how nationalist sentiment can be expressed tacitly.
Date of Award1 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorCharlotte Goodburn (Supervisor) & Natasha Kuhrt (Supervisor)

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