Authoritarian Propaganda Campaigns on Foreign Affairs: Four Birds with One Stone

Andrew Chubb, Frances Yaping Wang, "Authoritarian Propaganda Campaigns on Foreign Affairs: Four Birds With One Stone?" upcoming in International Studies Quarterly

37 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2022

See all articles by Andrew Chubb

Andrew Chubb

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Frances Yaping Wang

Singapore Management University

Date Written: October 28, 2022

Abstract

Why do authoritarian states sometimes play up dangerous international crises and embarrassing diplomatic incidents in domestic propaganda? Is it to mobilize, threaten, divert or pacify? Recent studies in comparative politics have focused on regime legitimacy and stability as key drivers of authoritarian propaganda practices, overlooking other possible motivations such as mobilization of the regime’s domestic allies or strategic signaling aimed at foreign audiences. Foreign policy analysts, meanwhile, have emphasized international dimensions of the propaganda behavior of China — the contemporary world’s most powerful and technologically sophisticated authoritarian state — but have often mistakenly framed complementary theories as competing alternative explanations. Paying attention to the multiple domestic and international audiences for authoritarian propaganda, this article demonstrates the logical and empirical compatibility of four supposedly competing explanations for propaganda campaigns on foreign policy issues: mobilization, signaling, diversion, and pacification. After elaborating the theoretical and observable implications of these four explanations, the article illustrates their simultaneous operation within the single case of China’s high-intensity propaganda campaign over the 2016 South China Sea arbitration.

Keywords: propaganda campaigns, China, authoritarian states, international conflicts

Suggested Citation

Chubb, Andrew and Wang, Frances Yaping, Authoritarian Propaganda Campaigns on Foreign Affairs: Four Birds with One Stone (October 28, 2022). Andrew Chubb, Frances Yaping Wang, "Authoritarian Propaganda Campaigns on Foreign Affairs: Four Birds With One Stone?" upcoming in International Studies Quarterly, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4261021

Andrew Chubb

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Frances Yaping Wang (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University ( email )

469 Bukit Timah Road
Federal Building #02-05
Singapore, 259756
Singapore

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