Research Project

Chinese Anger Diplomacy (ANGER)

2021 - 2024 (Ongoing)

Do liberal-democratic states yield to public criticism by China? ANGER approaches this question by focusing on China's use of "anger diplomacy" - public, vehement displays at the state level in response to a perceived offense.

A variety of governments and non-state actors have in recent years drawn the ire of Chinese officials and state-owned media for, inter alia, “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people” or being “gum stuck to China´s shoe.” Recent offenders include Denmark (for a newspaper cartoon), Australia (for suggesting an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19), and the National Basketball Association (for a pro-Hong Kong tweet).

Such criticism is distinct from normal diplomatic exchanges, as it is formulated in an emotionally charged register and presented publicly. While all states at times may display emotions, anger diplomacy in response to perceived offenses is arguably a more central part of Chinese foreign policy than it is for other great powers such as the US, Russia, or the EU.

With China’s emergence as a global power, there is a concern that such criticism will pressure liberal-democratic states to adjust their behaviour. But is such “anger diplomacy” effective? Does it result in changed behaviour from those targeted by Chinese authorities? Is anger diplomacy deployed more frequently towards certain liberal-democratic states than others?
ANGER will explain when and how such diplomacy may boost or undercut China's international influence. Drawing on the literature of emotions in international relations, and in cooperation with partners at Colombia University, King's College, NIAS, and University of Edinburgh, the project will systematically map episodes of Chinese anger, and conduct comparative analysis of the effects of Chinese anger diplomacy directed against state and non-state actors.

ANGER aims to i) systematically describe China’s use of emotionally charged criticism ii) explain the variation in response to such criticism in liberal-democratic states; and iii) assess how such anger diplomacy may boost or undercut China’s influence. By assessing how state-society relations may explain variation in responses and effects of such diplomacy, ANGER seeks to identify causal mechanisms at work. The project will further contribute to broader debates about hegemony, power-political competition, and the rise of China.

Funding program

This project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) under the programme UTENRIKS.