Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

- Barking Without Biting: Understanding Chinese Media Campaigns During Foreign Policy Disputes

Security Studies, upcoming. Pre-Print (SSRN).

What motivates Chinese media campaigns during foreign policy disputes and how are they carried out? “Influence campaigns” are often recognized as highly pertinent to international security, yet they remain understudied. This paper develops and tests a theory that explains these media campaigns as strategic actions to align domestic public opinion when it deviates from the state’s preferred foreign policy, exploiting the media’s mobilization or pacification effect. These divergent media effects correspond to two types of media campaigns respectively – the mobilization campaigns and the pacification campaigns. The pacification campaigns are particularly important because they indicate that hawkish rhetoric may counterintuitively pacify the public, and hence its adoption implies a moderate foreign policy intent. A medium-n congruence test of 21 Chinese diplomatic crises and process-tracing of the 2016 Sino-Philippines arbitration case offer strong support for the theory and demonstrate how a pacification campaign works and how it differs from a mobilization campaign.


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

Journal of Contemporary China, 28:119, 712-72, (with Brantly Womack). Post-Print. SSRN.

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.


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.