Purpose – The primary purpose of this paper is to investigate and ascertain the effects of integrative motivation on the willingness to participate in boycott activities. Design/methodology/approach – This paper uses a mail survey to examine the relationships among six constructs in a boycotting issue context, in order to explore Chinese consumers' willingness to boycott against Japanese products or services with the fallout from a Japanese former PM's continuous visits to a controversial war shrine since 2001. Findings – The findings suggest that there are significant and positive pairwise relationships between boycott participation and three factors (i.e. animosity, efficacy, and prior purchase). High animosity towards Japanese goods and the other two constructs, at the high end of the attitude spectrum, increase the level of willingness to engage in consumer boycott practices. Practical implications – 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 companies (MNCs) and host countries begin to see the historic and cultural perspective of these events in addition to the conventional consumer behaviour perspective. To enable boycotting to become less harmful, MNC management need to understand what makes local consumers so affronted. The results of the evaluation can potentially be generalized towards a strategic analysis of the boycott model in other hostile market situations. Originality/value – The findings of this paper offer pivotal implications for decision makers and the management 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.