Princeton University Library Catalog

The Pivot: Economic Slowdown and Diversionary Propaganda in the People's Republic of China, 2009-2015

Reiner, Molly [Browse]
Senior thesis
Christensen, Thomas J. [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Princeton University. Program in East Asian Studies [Browse]
Class year:
Summary note:
This thesis explores one possible explanation for the variations in China’s negative reaction to the Pivot to Asia, the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific strategy. I hypothesize that economic slowdown influences negative coverage of the Pivot to Asia in Chinese newspapers. This is a specific case of diversionary propaganda theory, a variation on the diversionary theory of war, a term I define as a connection between domestic instabilities and aggressive propaganda aimed at foreign entities. In order to test my hypothesis, I conduct a statistical analysis of a dataset consisting of four economic variables, measured monthly, and the number of times the Pivot to Asia is mentioned each month in People’s Daily and Global Times, two state-run Chinese newspapers. The regression analysis shows a correlation between two economic variables, unemployment and currency depreciation due to capital flight, and mentions of the Pivot to Asia. These results imply that as the Chinese economy worsens in these two ways, newspapers publish more about the Pivot. I bolster these results with a quantitative and qualitative text analysis of the articles comprising the dependent variable of my dataset, arriving at the conclusion that not only do People’s Daily articles grow more negative over time, but treatment of the Pivot also changes in Chinese editorials from 2009 to 2015. This analysis contributes to two ongoing academic discussions: qualitative research of China’s response to the Pivot, and quantitative research of China’s media climate. Because it explores the relationship between economics and propaganda, combining these two topics and adding an empirical component, this thesis occupies an under-explored space in the academic discourse. It also adds to the body of analysis of the Pivot, a set of recently enacted policies with yet unexplored implications.