Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

- Jawing through Crises: Chinese and Vietnamese Media Strategies in the South China Sea

Journal of Contemporary China, 2019. (with Brantly Womack). Ungated version. 

Winston Churchill once said, ‘it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.’ However, negotiations are particularly difficult when they are enmeshed in public opinion precommitments. The sharpest crisis between China and Vietnam in the last 30 years concerned the placement of a Chinese oil rig into contested waters in 2014. This study analyses the Chinese and Vietnamese propaganda efforts surrounding the crisis as examples of the instrumental use of propaganda in managing domestic public opinion on diplomatic crises. The article argues that despite very different approaches to public diplomacy during the crisis, both states were primarily concerned with avoiding escalation and ending the confrontation. The authors show how propaganda function as a pacifying device in dealing with rising domestic nationalism when executing a moderate foreign policy.

- "The Dog that Barks: Understanding Propaganda Campaigns on Territorial Disputes," revise and resubmit, Security Studies.

When and why do states allow and promote domestic media coverage of foreign disputes, compared to when they discourage or even censor such media coverage? With war becoming more and more rare, “war of words” has taken the center stage of today’s interstate disputes. As the role of the public and the mass media expand in foreign affairs, foreign policy increasingly involves the management of public opinion through the influence of mass media. This paper develops and tests a new theory that propaganda campaigns are a strategic state action in response to two conditions – existing public opinion and state policy intent. When public opinion and state policy intent diverge, leaders use propaganda to bring public opinion in line with the desired foreign policy, exploiting both of propaganda’s mobilizing and counterintuitively pacifying effects. A medium-n congruence test of 19 Chinese diplomatic crises on territorial disputes and process tracing four of the seventeen cases, using primary sources and content analysis of the Chinese official newspaper People’s Daily, render strong support for the theory.


General Public Publications


H-Diplo Article Review of Kosal Path. "The Politics of Chinas Aid to North Vietnam during the Anti-American Resistance, 1965-1969," Diplomacy & Statecraft, 27:4 (2016):682-700.

- "The Flawed Logic Behind Beijing's Senkaku/Diaoyu Policy," The Diplomat, May 16, 2013.

- "Tensions in the East China Sea: Here To Stay," The Diplomat, October 23, 2012.

- "Is U.S.-China Distrust Inevitable?" The Diplomat, May 1, 2012.

- "The Myths Surrounding the EU and China," The Independent, May 1, 2012.

- "Missed Cues on Tibet," The South China Morning Post, February 28, 2009.

Working Papers:


- "Unveiling China's Behavioral Patterns of Maritime Incursions into the Disputed Waters of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands," with Pengqiao Lu (McGill University), presented at ISSS/ISAC 2017 and APSA 2018.


What and who drives China’s maritime behavior in its offshore disputes such as the South China Sea dispute and the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute? We argue that Chinese maritime patrols within twelve nautical miles and beyond twelve nautical miles but within the contiguous zone, because of their divergent international legal implications, are determined by two separate causal processes. The former is of high stakes likely decided by senior officials at the central state level, whereas the latter is of low stakes likely determined by local to mid-level operational offices based on operational factors. We test these hypotheses on the weekly frequencies of Chinese maritime patrols near the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands since 2012. We find that the concurrence of major national diplomatic events has a significant pacifying effect on Chinese maritime patrols within twelve nautical miles of the Islands, while the imposition and the lifting of China’s fishing ban increases Chinese maritime patrols in the contiguous area. These statistical findings lend strong support to our theory. This study has important implications for understanding the bureaucratic processes in Chinese foreign policy making on territorial disputes.

- "The War of Words: Authoritarian Media Behaviors in Conflicts"


This paper extends the argument made in my dissertation about how authoritarian regimes use mass media to manipulate public opinion in conflicts using sentiment analysis of People’s Daily.

- "How Does Patriotic Education Affect Nationalism? A Survey Experiment in China"


This paper tests the effects of various forms of patriotic education on nationalist sentiments based on a survey experiment conducted in China.

- "A Strategic Decision Model Applied in the 2016 Sino-Philippine Arbitration Case," with Krista Wiegand (University of Tennessee)

This paper applies a strategic decision model developed by Wiegand to explain the 2016 Sino-Philippine arbitration over the South China Sea based on our interviews with Chinese and Philippine policymakers.

- "Delaying in Territorial Disputes," presented at ISA 2016.


Delaying, defined as a state’s deliberate efforts to defer a peaceful or military settlement, is the most common, yet the least theorized state behavior on territorial disputes. Why, when and how do states delay? This paper develops and tests a theory based on two types of delays.