Deconstructing Democracy with Authoritarian Imprints: Evidence from Chinese Diaspora on Twitter
65 Pages Posted: 13 May 2022
Date Written: May 11, 2022
The rise of right-wing populism, particularly Trumpism, has presented a daunting challenge to democracy. We explore the historical roots of Trumpism among the Chinese diaspora. We collect nearly one million tweets posted by approximately 250 Chinese overseas opinion leaders from 2019 to early 2021 and employ machine learning algorithms to identify pro-Trump and anti-democratic stances. Using dictionary methods, we develop a novel measure of authoritarian imprints based on the usage of words that figured prominently in the political discourse of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), one of the most violent political movements in China’s modern history. We find that Chinese opinion leaders with strong authoritarian imprints are more likely to support Trump and endorse anti-democratic practices, such as denying the 2020 presidential election result and advocating unconstitutional means to overthrow the result. This study has implications for understanding the support of right-wing populism among immigrants or ethnic minority groups and the impact of historical legacies on contemporary political attitudes.
Keywords: Trumpism, authoritarian imprints, the Cultural Revolution, machine learning
JEL Classification: P16, F22
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