The row between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands has brought the issue of nationalism to light, with Japanese companies suffering as a result of Chinese boycotts sparked by the conflict. In the article “Chinese Grassroots Nationalism and Its Impact on Foreign Brands,” recently published in the Journal of Macromarketing, Zhihong Gao of Rider University offers a deeper perspective on nationalism and its broader implications for marketing:
A complex phenomenon, nationalism has surged worldwide in recent years and presents a serious challenge to international marketers. This article examines the impact of Chinese grassroots nationalism on foreign brands on four fronts, that is, the political, cultural, economic, and consumer rights. It argues that the four fronts are interlinked and involve the participation of not only the consumer but also the government, the media, and local companies. Thus, the effects of nationalism on foreign brands are largely mediated by these agents and manifest the most in the arena of public policy making….
Nationalist protests triggered by political events are reactive and sporadic in nature, with limited, temporary economic impact. However, they are highly interruptive and often force foreign marketers to abandon their original marketing plans (Blanchard 2008; Li 2009). According to a poll, some 10 percent of Japanese businesses operating in China suffered a negative impact on production and sales activities due to a series of anti-Japan protests by Chinese nationalists in 2005 (Hughes 2006). More importantly, waves of such protests exert strong pressure on the Chinese government, strengthen its position at international negotiations, and thus hold the capacity to swing the outcome of international trade talks (Wu 2006). The longterm effects of such protests are especially troublesome, as they create a self-feeding cycle of antiforeign sentiments among the Chinese public, who eagerly seek out other venues to express those sentiments.
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