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Title: Diversion or Reassurance? Domestic Insecurity and Anti-foreign Propaganda in China
Authors: Bui, Nhung Trang
Advisors: Christensen, Thomas J.
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: China
Subjects: International relations
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Do domestic problems motivate leaders to adopt hostile actions against foreign countries to divert the attention of the public? According to the diversionary war literature, leaders might initiate a military conflict during times of domestic difficulties. I argue that provoking a conflict might oftentimes be too risky and that leaders can instead rely on alternative diversionary measures. My dissertation studies whether Chinese leaders intensified anti-foreign propaganda when they had to deal with serious unrest at home. I offer an original dataset that measures how positively or negatively the People’s Daily covered the United States, Japan, Taiwan and the West and examine the relationship between propaganda sentiment and major unrest events in China. In addition, I analyze in detail the propaganda strategies adopted in the aftermath of seven protests in China to understand the domestic circumstances that motivate antagonistic and accusatory propaganda against external actors. The dissertation finds that the government did not rely on anti-foreign rhetoric indiscriminately whenever it faced protests at home. Anti-foreign propaganda is more likely to be used when the government needs to co-opt the social groups that participated in the protest, and when there is no alternative domestic threat to shift the blame for the protest on. I find scant evidence of diversionary propaganda after the Democracy Wall movement of 1978/1979 and the Falun Gong protest in 1999. The government used both diversion attacking various external actors as well as reassurances towards foreign investors after the student demonstrations of 1986 and 1989. Finally, a high level of diversionary propaganda targeting ethnic exiles and Western countries was adopted after the riots in Tibet and Xinjiang. Additionally, the media used convenient events, such as American military interventions abroad and war commemoration days to intensify anti-foreign sentiments. I find that the use of anti-foreign rhetoric to bolster domestic legitimacy is more complex and multi-dimensional than what the logic of the diversionary war literature suggests.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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