The country is fuming after its claim to more than a million square miles of territory in the South China Sea was refused.
America was blamed for the international tribunal’s decision and soon protests broke out targeting US businesses in China like KFC and Apple.
Demands for war quickly followed and though Beijing has tried to censor them, experts warn that the pressure might force it to attack.
“If it gets out of control then you could see more protests and violence”
Dr Chris Ogden
Asian security expert Dr Chris Ogden told Daily Star Online that the communist regime had fostered fierce patriotism to help deflect criticism.
But now, with its people demanding action against America, he said the government couldn’t necessarily control those emotions.
“Once unleashed they are hard to control. State media has even warned against nationalist demonstrations,” he said.
“There were equivalent demonstrations against Japan some years ago that couldn’t be controlled by the government.
“The political circumstance now, in the South China Sea, might force the party to respond even if it doesn’t really want to.
“The issue is if there is a ground swell of nationalism, it’s hard for the Chinese leaders to deny it.
“If it gets out of control then domestically you could see more protests and violence against US and Japanese corporations.
“It could lead to some within the party feeling that they are being criticised and, by extension, trying to do something like take back territory forcefully with its navy.”
His remarks come as a new report from America’s RAND Corporation think tank warned the risk of hostilities “cannot be ignored”.
The report cautioned that both sides have the ability to strike and degrade the other’s forces quickly, and would wish to do so first if violence erupted.
Which raises the risk of a misunderstanding going overboard, and the two superpowers being plunged into a “long and severe war” in Asia.
In the end China would lose, the report found, but it added that the gap between the two countries’ strengths was closing.
Dr Ogden, of St Andrews University, said China’s “biggest tool” for resisting demands for is its censorship.
“They have got is a huge degree of internet surveillance,” he said. “They can close down discussions quite easily and search for keywords to block”.
If that proves sufficient, they might wish to appeal the tribunal’s decision, get a rival body to find in its favour, or simply ignore the court’s ruling.
However, he said that enforcing the ruling and evicting China from its artificial islands in the South China Sea “really raises the possibility of conflict”.