Nationalism and Racism
Racism is commonly theorized from the Western perspective but is also prevalent in non-Western contexts. The resurgence of nationalism and its interplay with racism, often salient in the populist politics that espouse such ideologies to construct the notion of "the people," can be observed not only in Western liberal democracies but also in many other places with different political systems and cultures. This has complicated the ways many countries approach a range of social, political, and economic challenges, including democratic backsliding, immigration and refugee crisis, economic inequality, and even foreign policy decisions in dynamic international relations.
This project explores how nationalism and racism intertwine to create various forms of exclusion, marginalization, and intolerance across the Asia-Pacific region. It examines unique cases of racism in the region, analyzing their defining features and underlying patterns. The research seeks to uncover how race is conceptualized by/among different actors, including the ruling elite, the media, and the public in various Asian countries, and how these conceptualizations may resemble or differ from racism in other parts of the world. It will thereby interrogate how the concept of racism is applied to the region, and what other factors — religion, socioeconomic status, gender, historical memory, and more — factor into racism. Also importantly, this project aims to provide policy implications to address these multifaceted challenges.
This research is part of the Stanford Next Asia Policy Lab (SNAPL).
Deconstructing Racism “Denial” in Asia
The proposition that race is a social construct is extensively discussed in the field of sociology. However, a significant gap persists in empirical and comparative analysis, particularly in understanding how this construct manifests and is socially and historically embedded within the diverse contexts of Asia. This void gains added significance against the global diffusion of anti-racist movements such as Black Lives Matter. Our objective is to examine and compare the articulation of race in contemporary Asia, where an entanglement among race, ethnicity, nation, and postcoloniality complicates the race/racism debate.
As a starting point, this study centers on elite discourse of race and racism, developing a typology to explain “Asian” responses to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We strategically employ this UN treaty/framework as an internationally agreed-upon platform that provides a rich source of communicative text. The research involves a critical discourse analysis of each country’s official reports submitted to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Adopting an inductive and interpretive method, this study develops categories and types to explain how each country in Asia, particularly at the state/elite level, understands and talks about race and racial discrimination. We focus specifically on these countries’ tendencies to deny or downplay the existence and severity of the problem within their borders, identifying critical historical junctures that have shaped the varying articulation of race in the focused region. This study lays the groundwork for a cross-regional and global comparative analysis, fostering a deeper understanding of the complexities and historical contingencies surrounding the discursive construction of race and racism.
Construction of “The People” and “Others” in “Multiculturalism” Debates
In the increasingly globalized world, Asian countries have undergone significant societal and population changes driven by factors such as demographic crises, immigration, and labor force mobility. Concurrently, issues of inclusion and exclusion, particularly concerning minority and marginalized communities, have gained prominence. This research seeks to investigate the discursive (re)construction and justification of “the people,” those deemed legitimate and authentic members of the nation, and “others,” especially racialized individuals, in policy and legislative debates surrounding the establishment of “multiethnic/multicultural” societies in four Asian countries: China, Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Despite differing demographic realities and needs, immigration and citizenship laws, colonial and postcolonial legacies, and the influence of ethnic nationalism and populist politics, these countries embrace “multiculturalism” as both a normative principle and political rhetoric. However, they face mounting concerns related to discrimination, disenfranchisement, xenophobia, and various other forms of intolerance towards marginalized minority communities.
Employing a qualitative comparative approach, this research will analyze parliamentary deliberations and policy documents to understand how national leaders and legislators in these different countries imagine and negotiate the composition of a “multicultural” society. It will also explore the gaps between official, top-down narratives and the actual policy implementation, as well as the responses to bottom-up movements advocating for greater inclusion and social justice. Ultimately, we aim to identify underlying factors contributing to similarities and differences among the selected national contexts.
The Rise of Anti-China Sentiments in U.S. Allies in the Asia-Pacific
In recent decades, the world has witnessed the rise of China. While China has sought to increase its soft power and global influence by actively investing in both financial aid and non-financial public diplomacy (such as Confucius Institutes), negative public views towards China continue to increase around the world. Conventional wisdom suggests that these anti-China sentiments are provoked by security, economic, and authoritarian threats from China.
However, in this study, we challenge the view that such threats come from China per se. Instead, we offer a novel perspective that it is imperative to consider the international relations context in which the rivalry between the United States and China has been intensifying. We argue that the U.S. alliance plays a pivotal role in shaping global citizens’ attitudes toward China, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where the tensions between the two great powers are the most acute.
Utilizing Gallup World Poll data covering more than 432,000 individuals across 22 countries and 17 years in the Asia-Pacific region, we find that citizens of U.S. allies are more likely to form negative views on China as the U.S.-China rivalry intensifies compared to citizens of non-allies. We then analyze Asian Barometer Survey data that includes more than 43,000 respondents from 12 countries across three waves (2010-2021). Our analysis further demonstrates that in the face of growing U.S.-China competition, citizens of U.S. allies tend to base their (increasingly negative) attitudes toward China on their (increasingly positive) attitudes toward the United States. In addition to theoretical contributions to the literature on foreign public opinion, not only does this project have important policy implications for the United States and its allies but also for China.
Different Threat Perception and Anti-China Sentiments in U.S. Allies: Experimental Evidence from South Korea, Japan, and Australia
In our subsequent project, by considering a multifaceted threat from China that encompasses ideological, military, economic, and cultural dimensions, we experimentally assess and compare the rising tide of anti-China sentiments in three U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region: South Korea, Japan, and Australia. Despite these countries sharing similar political and economic contexts, their negative attitudes toward China differ both temporally and in terms of the leading political and socio-demographic groups responsible for such sentiments.
Given these differences, we elucidate underlying factors that shape anti-China sentiments in the three countries. We also seek to explore whether such sentiments stem from their views of China per se or have more to do with the growing U.S.-China conflict. By focusing on different aspects of a China threat and the U.S.-China competition across the three countries, we offer a more nuanced understanding of anti-China sentiments among the three publics. Furthermore, as public opinion is becoming increasingly important in the process of foreign policymaking, this project provides policy-relevant implications for the three Asia-Pacific nations and the United States and China.
Democracy vs. Autocracy in the U.S.-China Competition: Do Democratic Values Matter in the Asia-Pacific?
Many experts and pundits proclaim that we have entered or are entering a new Cold War. But is the recent U.S.-China rivalry a new Cold War? In tandem with U.S. Rivals: Construct or Reality? research theme, this project challenges the myth of the new Cold War by focusing on its ideological dimension. Although the United States has emphasized the value of democracy — as an alternative to autocracy — as one of the most important foreign policy goals and strategies, we argue that appealing to democratic values does not work as effectively in the Asia-Pacific region as it does in Europe, where the history of democracy is longer.
In comparison, democratic values are not as deeply embedded into the belief systems of recently democratized Asia-Pacific nations. Therefore, the ideological divide (i.e., democracy vs. autocracy) does not necessarily serve as a key lens through which Asia-Pacific citizens view U.S.-China competition and, more broadly, international relations. We provide empirical evidence for this argument by using cross-national survey data and survey experiments.
Publications and Related News
South Korea’s Presidential Candidates Face Balancing Act Amid Rising Anti-China Sentiment
The Guardian, March 2022
South Koreans Are Rethinking What China Means to Their Nation
APARC website, February 2022
The Rise of Anti-Chinese Sentiments in South Korea: Political and Security Implications
APARC website, October 2021