ANTI-CHINA RHETORIC, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY TOWARDS CHINA
Is anti-China rhetoric an effective strategy in U.S. presidential campaigns? If the answer is Yes, then to what extent does anti-China rhetoric affect them? If the answer is No, then why have so many presidential candidates used anti-China rhetoric in recent campaigns? Is anti-China rhetoric only election-driven? Is it also policy-driven? Do presidential candidates use anti-China rhetoric to seek voter support, as well as propose changes in U.S. foreign policy towards China?Conventional wisdom and scholars like Robert Sutter suggest that foreign policy has little effect on American presidential elections and anti-foreign rhetoric by presidential candidates does not matter to American foreign policy and foreign relations. In this dissertation, however, I argue the opposite that anti-China rhetoric exercises significant influence on American presidential elections and foreign policy towards China. The dissertation addresses two fundamental questions: 1) what is the effect of anti-China rhetoric on American presidential elections? And 2) what is the effect of anti-China rhetoric on American foreign policy towards China, American public opinion towards China, and U.S.-China relationship? To answer the first question about elections, I focus on televised campaign commercials and statistically estimate the effect of anti-China rhetoric on seeking voter support in the presidential election. The data I examine come from the “Wisconsin Advertising Project” and various election polls in 2008. I answer the second question about foreign policy by exploring the contents of anti-China rhetoric in campaign activities including ads, candidates’ speeches and debates, and public statements about policy towards China and how that rhetoric affects subsequent American foreign policy towards China, as well as public opinion of China and U.S.-China relations. My statistical and qualitative analyses find that airing ads using anti-China rhetoric increases the presidential candidate’s voter support in target states; that the administration is more likely to make tough foreign policies towards China when there is more anti-China rhetoric by presidential candidates; and thirdly, that anti-China rhetoric during the election year negatively affects American opinions of China but produces a positive impact on U.S.-China relations.
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