Nationalism in Local Media During International Conflict: Text Mining Domestic News Reports of the China–Philippines Maritime Dispute

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Using the lens of positioning theory and a mixed methods strategy, we investigate domestic media’s production of nationalism during an international conflict. Philippine and Chinese news accounts of the Scarborough Shoal conflict are text mined by RapidMiner software. With almost 100% accuracy, mathematical models successfully classify sets-of-words that belong to each domestic newspaper. Principal components analyses show that Philippine Daily Inquirer reports revolve around words related to local fishing and livelihoods. News accounts in China’s People’s Daily uphold national sovereignty. A complementary qualitative analysis of the news reports gives our mathematically derived themes more meaning. Philippine maritime claims cite recent Philippine history and international law. China’s story references lost sovereignty and ancient rather than recent history. Positioning analysis demonstrates how each newspaper claims its own country owns Scarborough Shoal and is the victim of the other country. Our findings show how two contradictory and nationalistic versions of an international conflict may be linguistically constructed by domestic media. Our research also highlights the illuminative power of positioning theory in the field of international relations and media analysis.