China Bashing: How Much? Who Does It? Has it Worked?
29 Pages Posted: 6 May 2011
Date Written: May 3, 2011
Many scholars in both the United States and China argue that a lot of the news stories about China published in major U.S. newspapers tend to have a negative slant. This tendency has generally been called “China bashing.” The purpose of this paper is threefold: (1) to quantify and measure the extent of this bashing, (2) to determine whether there are ideological reasons behind it, and (3) to assess whether the bashing has “worked” from the U.S. point of view (e.g. has it influenced the rate of appreciation of the Renminbi against the dollar?).
To accomplish the first objective, I construct two China-bashing indices that track the incidence of news reported in the United States with a negative slant toward China. The first index tracks newspaper articles in major U.S. outlets containing one of the following “grievance” key phrases: “human rights,” “democracy,” “child labor,” “Tibet,” and “repression,” phrases that have persistently been associated with criticisms of China. I find that this index correlates well with opinion polls about China conducted in the United States, and the correlation suggests that the index is a meaningful measure of bashing. The second index tracks articles containing one or more of the following key phrases: “exchange rate manipulation,” “exchange rate manipulator,” “currency manipulation,” and “currency manipulator.” The indices, which span the 1990 to 2010 period, reveal that the composition of China-bashing in U.S. print media has shifted over time.
While “human rights” bashing has declined somewhat, “currency manipulation” bashing has risen sharply. My estimates indicate that U.S. newspapers report news with a negative slant about China 130 to 150 percent as often as newspapers in other countries.
To address the second objective I break down the “human rights” bashing index by the ideological slant of the newspaper. The results indicate that “liberal” newspapers bash China more intensely than “conservative” newspapers do, suggesting that ideology may be a relevant issue behind the bashing.
Pertaining to the last objective – whether bashing has worked – the empirical results indicate that it has not. In fact, I find that currency-manipulation bashing appears to slow down, rather than accelerate, the rate at which the renminbi appreciates against the U.S. dollar. If the U.S. objective is to have China let the renminbi appreciate against the dollar, then the empirical results reported in this paper indicate that China bashing may actually be counterproductive.
Keywords: China Bashing, Renminbi, Currency Manipulation, Human Rights, U.S. Newspapers
JEL Classification: F50, L82, C22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation