Chinese Nationalism and Scapegoating Taiwan: A Diversionary Analysis of the Cross-Strait Relations

Dr. Yitan Li
Dr. Enyu Zhang

Diversionary theory argues that when leaders face crises at home, they have incentives to create or use existing crises overseas as diversions to help increase their domestic support and cohesiveness. On the one hand, since the 2016 presidential election in Taiwan, Taipei’s refusal to accept the “1992 Consensus” has led cross-strait relations to an “ice age”. On the other hand, Chinese President Xi Jinping has faced resistance both internationally and domestically for his efforts to consolidate his power and re-establish China as a dominate player in the international system. As Xi Jinping faces the potential for domestic political instability, social unrest, and economic stagnation, he needs a perfect scapegoat. Using diversionary theory as a theoretical framework, this paper examines whether Xi Jinping’s government would use the Taiwan issue, by inciting nationalism, to divert attention away from potential problems Beijing faces domestically to ensure the party’s political survival and the country’s stability.