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The Power Politics behind Sino-Japanese Identity Politics

  • Giulio Pugliese (Autor/in)


This article argues that the assertive Chinese and Japanese foreign and security stances of the Xi Jinping and Abe Shinzo administrations have resulted in a government-led renaissance of their respective identity politics, one qualified by top-down, adversarial nationalism. Aided by the nation-state's communication firepower, the two governments have instrumentally insisted upon antagonistic discourses - with domestic and foreign audiences in mind. This article does not deny the many bottom-up sources of Chinese and Japanese nationalism already discovered by constructivist scholars, but introduces rather a different perspective on identity construction in Japan and China. On the basis of an array of primary sources, this article argues that the logic of Sino-Japanese identity politics has been increasingly rooted in the neoclassical realism of Sino-Japanese confrontation. Within the broader structural picture of great power competition, the Chinese and Japanese elite have engaged in a more assertive foreign policy aimed at territorial defense. Central governments enjoy leverage in defining the perimeters of discourse-making, and the nationalistic Abe and Xi administrations have mobilized public opinion following the 2012 crisis surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands standoff.