Barking Without Biting: Understanding Chinese Media Campaigns During Foreign Policy Disputes
Security Studies, Forthcoming
40 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2021
Date Written: July 22, 2021
What motivates Chinese media campaigns during foreign policy disputes and how are they carried out? “Influence campaigns” are often recognized as highly pertinent to international security, yet they remain understudied. This paper develops and tests a theory that explains these media campaigns as strategic actions to align domestic public opinion when it deviates from the state’s preferred foreign policy, exploiting the media’s mobilization or pacification effect. These divergent media effects correspond to two types of media campaigns respectively – the mobilization campaigns and the pacification campaigns. The pacification campaigns are particularly important because they indicate that hawkish rhetoric may counterintuitively pacify the public, and hence its adoption implies a moderate foreign policy intent. A medium-n congruence test of 21 Chinese diplomatic crises and process-tracing of the 2016 Sino-Philippines arbitration case offer strong support for the theory and demonstrate how a pacification campaign works and how it differs from a mobilization campaign.
Keywords: Foreign Policy Disputes, Chinese Propaganda, Public Opinion
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