The role of occupation in an integrated boycott model : a cross-regional study in China

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Malcolm Smith


Consumer boycotts are a worldwide and historic phenomenon in modern society. As the number of protests grows and as local authorities recognize the economic and political impact of such activities, then multinational corporations (MNCs) and host countries begin to see the historic and cultural perspective of these events besides the conventional consumer behavior perspective. They may also be regarded as crisis handling issues in public relations which have a considerable and far-reaching economic impact on these MNCs and their home countries (Petra and Adamantios 2007). To enable boycotting to become less harmful, the MNCs' management needs to understand what makes local consumers so affronted.

This study first examines the relationships among six constructs: consumer animosity, efficacy, ethnocentrism (CETSCALE), prior purchase, product judgment, and boycott participation, in a boycotting issue context. The study then examines the role of occupancy status in an integrated boycott model, which embraces the above six measurement models. The theories of consumer animosity and the five other models have been adopted to explain Chinese consumers' willingness to boycott against Japanese products or services with the fallout from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine since he came into power in 2001.

The six constructs provide the basis for introducing an integrated model which is hypothesized and examined in this study by means of the structural equation modeling (SEM) statistical technique. Consumer animosity attributes are based on the work of Klein, Ettenson, and Jung et al. (Klein, Ettenson et al. 1998; Ang, Jung et al. 2004; Ettenson and Klein 2005); ethnocentrism and product judgment constructs are adapted from the work of Klein, Ettenson, Krishnan, and Shankarmahesh (Klein, Ettenson et al. 2006; Shankarmahesh 2006); efficacy attributes are derived from the research of Ettenson and Klein (2005). Two other constructs, prior purchase and boycott participation, and their corresponding indices are measured by means of expert validation. The status of occupancy is determined by a real-life incidence of military occupation imposed on China by Japan in 1940's.

In order to collect the data needed for this study, a self-administrated questionnaire was developed. English and Chinese language versions of the questionnaire were prepared. A systematic sample of eligible consumers was obtained with the help of stratified sampling technology, and data were collected through mail surveys by questionnaire for two phases (including pilot study) in five months. Data were analyzed in six stages: preliminary analyses (i.e., demographic and descriptive statistics), reliability test, construct validity, measurement model fit, structural model fit, and multiple-group invariance analysis.

In total twelve major hypotheses are examined in the study, with the first six of these concerning the factor relationships among the six constructs. The proposed hypotheses suggest that there are significant and positive pairwise relationships between boycott participation and the other three factors (i.e., consumer animosity, consumer efficacy and prior purchase). The statistically significant and positive relationships observed suggest that high animosity towards Japanese goods embedded amongst Chinese consumers, and the other two constructs (efficacy and prior purchase behaviour) at the high end of attitude spectrum respectively increase the level of willingness to engage in consumer boycott practices. At the same time, consumer ethnocentrism and product judgment towards Japanese goods contribute significantly to Chinese consumer behaviour regarding past purchases of Japanese products or services. The remaining six hypotheses deal with invariance tests on structural equation mode ling between the two groups of the sample: occupied area vs. free area. The results suggest that, regardless of the status of occupancy condition (occupied vs. free), the tendencies of animosity, efficacy and prior purchase behaviour play important roles in attitudes towards, and participation in, boycott activities. In addition, the outcomes of the data analyses testify to the indirect influence of both consumer ethnocentrism and product judgment on consumers' willingness to participate in boycott activity.

The findings of this study offer pivotal implications for decision-makers and other managements of those western multinational enterprises who are concerned with increasing their share of the world's largest consumer market. In particular, Japanese MNCs need to pay much more attention to the oppressed and potentially explosive emotion of animosity as the legacy of past conflicts (i.e., war, economic, political etc.) between Japan and China in modern history, regardless of a difference on the status of past Japanese occupation. The results of this evaluation can potentially be generalized towards a strategic analysis of the boycott model in other hostile market situations.

LCSH Subject Headings

Boycotts - China.

Consumers – China - Attitudes.

Nationalism - China.

China - Relations - Japan.

Japan - Relations - China.

Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945.

Military occupation.

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