Does the public in authoritarian regimes disapprove of their leaders' backing down from public threats and commitments? Answers to this question provide a critical micro-foundation for the emerging scholarship on authoritarian audience costs. We investigate this question by implementing a series of survey experiments in China, a single-party authoritarian state. Findings based on responses from 5375 Chinese adults show that empty threats and commitments expose the Chinese government to substantial disapproval from citizens concerned about potential damage to China's international reputation. Additional qualitative evidence reveals that Chinese citizens are willing to express their discontent of leaders' foreign policy blunders through various channels. These findings contribute to the ongoing debate over whether and how domestic audiences can make commitments credible in authoritarian states.
AbstractForeign direct investment (FDI) from China has recently met with increasing public opposition in many host nations. Why does the public respond less favourably to Chinese FDI than to FDI from other countries? We explore this question by conducting a series of survey experiments in Canada, where the majority of the public holds a negative opinion of Chinese investment. We find that the bias can be attributed to innumeracy about the relative size of China's FDI and misinformation about investment rules that govern FDI projects in Canada. Correcting both misperceptions substantially reduces the bias of respondents against FDI projects from China. These results suggest that corrective information can lead to positive change in public attitudes, a finding that has important policy implications for Canadian leaders hoping to expand the country's business ties with China.
Abstract Many studies have explored the importance of public opinion in British foreign policy decision-making, especially when it comes to the UK's relations with the United States and the European Union. Despite its importance, there is a dearth of research on public opinion about British foreign policy towards other major players in the international system, such as emerging powers like China. We have addressed this knowledge gap by conducting a public opinion survey in the UK after the Brexit referendum. Our research findings indicate that the British public at large finds China's rise disconcerting, but is also pragmatic in its understanding of how the ensuing bilateral relations should be managed. More importantly, our results show that views on China are clearly split between the two opposing Brexit identities. Those who subscribe strongly to the Leave identity, measured by their aversion to the EU and antipathy towards immigration, are also more likely to hold negative perceptions of Chinese global leadership and be more suspicious of China as a military threat. In contrast, those who espouse a Remain identity—that is, believe that Britain would be better served within the EU and with more immigrants—are more likely to prefer closer engagement with China and to have a more positive outlook overall on China's place within the global community.