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The Art of State Persuasion:
China’s Strategic Use of Media in Interstate Disputes 

“This terrific book examines when, why, and how China engages in propaganda campaigns amid international crises. Through detailed empirical analysis and clever theorizing, Wang shows that China can launch such campaigns not just to mobilize public support for an assertive policy but also to pacify hardline public sentiment for a moderate approach. A timely and significant contribution to the literature on Chinese foreign policy.”
–—M. Taylor Fravel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Frances Wang highlights how the Chinese government uses media campaigns to align popular sentiment with its foreign policy goals, often in surprising ways. The book illuminates China’s use of mass media to both mobilize and pacify opinions. Essential reading

for anyone interested in Chinese foreign policy and the domestic sources of pressure on Beijing.”
–—Jessica Chen Weiss, Cornell University

“This lucidly written book argues that China’s ostensibly aggressive and harsh rhetoric against foreign targets during diplomatic crises often aims at de-escalation, challenging conventional wisdom. A must-read for scholars interested in understanding China’s foreign policy media campaigns.”
–—Haifeng Huang, Ohio State University

Why do nations actively publicize previously overlooked disputes, and why does domestic mobilization sometimes fail to lead to aggressive policy? The Art of State Persuasion explores China’s strategic use of state propaganda during crises, revealing why certain disputes are amplified while others are downplayed. This variation depends on the alignment, or lack thereof, between Chinese state policy and public opinion. When public sentiment is more moderate than the government’s foreign policy objectives, a “mobilization campaign” is initiated. Conversely, when public opinion is more hawkish, a “pacification campaign” is deployed to mollify public sentiment.

Wang’s research, utilizing medium-N and case-study analyses alongside textual analysis, interviews, and archival data, elucidates the mechanics of these campaigns and help discern state foreign policy intentions. It underscores the importance of managing fluctuating public sentiment through diverse discursive tactics, challenging the conventional view of China’s propaganda as uniformly aggressive.

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