Campaign Rhetoric and Chinese Reactions to New Leaders
63 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2016
Date Written: July 20, 2016
How does campaign rhetoric shape foreign perceptions and reactions to the election of new leaders? This article highlights two primary factors guiding Chinese beliefs and behavior toward new leaders in the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. First is the degree of consistency between campaign rhetoric and other indicators of a candidate’s likely policy toward China; second is the degree of change from the policies of the past administration. We observe a wait-and-see pattern of Chinese behavior toward leaders whose campaign rhetoric was inconsistent with other indicators of likely China policy; a proactive pattern of Chinese behavior toward leaders whose campaign rhetoric is consistent with indicators of change in a hawkish or dovish direction; and a status quo orientation toward leaders whose campaign rhetoric is consistent with continuity in China policy. Our findings push back against common characterizations of how China and other authoritarian states react to democratic leadership transitions. In no case did China appear to probe or test the resolve of newly elected leaders. Far from dismissing campaign remarks outright or mistaking them for policy, we found Chinese observers to be highly attentive and sophisticated interpreters of election rhetoric.
Keywords: Campaigns, Elections, China, Japan, Taiwan, United States, Rhetoric, Foreign Policy, Leaders
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