"When Autocrats Threaten Citizens With Violence: Evidence from China"
Presenter: Erin Baggott Carter, Assistant Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
When do autocrats employ their propaganda apparatuses to threaten citizens with violence? And do these threats condition citizen behavior? We develop a theory of propaganda-based threats in autocracies that builds on insights from experimental psychology. We argue that even credible threats of violence are costly, and so are reserved for moments when protests are most likely. Since threats of violence are employed sparingly, we also expect them to be effective. We test the theory with data from China, the world’s most populous autocracy. We collect all 164,707 articles published between 2009 and 2016 in the Workers’ Daily, a state-run newspaper that focuses on domestic issues and targets a non-elite audience. The Chinese government, we find, employs propaganda-based threats overwhelmingly around the anniversaries of ethnic separatist movements in Tibet and Xinjiang provinces. Using an instrumental variables strategy, we show that these threats plausibly decrease protest rates.
CRW provides a forum for the presentation of original research by China scholars from around the country in social science and humanities, sponsored by the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China. To view archive and upcoming workshops list, visit: http://fudan-uc.ucsd.edu/events/workshops.html