How Do Domestic Events in the U.S. Affect Chinese Online Opinion toward Democracy? Evidence from Zhihu


How do political events that take place in another country affect people's attitudes toward their own country and their own political systems? To answer this question, I crawled all posts related to political topics on Zhihu, a popular question-and-answer platform in China, similar  to the English-language site Quora, and extract 240,441 discussions of the democracy of the U.S. I then use a machine-learning approach to categorize the sentiments in these discussions. Using a novel self-constructed event database of domestic news stories in the U.S. extracted from 587,252 news articles published in the New York Times between 2011 and 2020, I examined the impact of domestic events in America on young and educated Chinese netizens’ attitudes toward the democratic system. The results show that domestic political events in the U.S. cause substantial attitude changes in political beliefs among Chinese netizens. Significant domestic events in the U.S., such as the Capitol Riot on January 6, significantly affect the Chinese internet users and produce a more negative view about the democratic system and become more supportive of the Chinese regime. These results have implications for public opinion in the authoritarian context, for regime legitimacy, and for information politics.

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Speakers / Performers:
Ms. Hanying WEI