Erin Baggott - 2016
  • Biography [CV]

    Erin Baggott Carter (赵雅芬) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California School of International Relations, where she is also the Co-PI at the Lab on Non-Democratic Politics. She received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University in 2016.

    Erin’s research focuses on Chinese foreign policy. She draws upon field research in China, American foreign policy documents accessed through Freedom of Information Act requests, and datasets of autocratic propaganda constructed with methods from computational social science. She is currently working on three book projects: one on the domestic sources of US-China relations, one on autocratic propaganda, and one that exploits the Foreign Agents Registration Act to explore the role of autocratic money in American Politics.

    Her research has been supported by the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and the Tobin Project.

    She regularly tweets about Chinese foreign policy and propaganda at @baggottcarter. She can be reached via email at

  • The Domestic Sources of US-China Relations

    This book manuscript argues that the United States and China employ diplomacy to secure international cooperation, but that their domestic politics render it more elusive.

    International relations theory regards talk as cheap. It argues that states cannot employ verbal communication to overcome structural conditions that ostensibly favor conflict. Can a security-seeking state use diplomacy to affect another’s assessment of shared interests and elicit substantive cooperation? To answer this question, Part I of the book analyzes original datasets of US-China diplomatic exchanges and American assessments of shared interests with China. As diplomats have long observed, diplomacy is a forum for states to exchange concessions that render both sides better off. Chinese diplomacy improves American assessments of shared interests and increases the probability of bilateral cooperation.

    Part II explores how China's domestic politics destabilize the bilateral relationship. Using novel data on elite financial transfers, it shows that the prospect of elite leadership challenges caused by economic hardship may be responsible for as much as 40% of China's conflict initiation toward the United States, as the leader takes steps to inoculate himself against elite challenges with popular nationalism. It then explores how China and Taiwan influence American foreign policy by lobbying members of Congress, the White House, and the press.

    Part III documents how American domestic politics destabilize the bilateral relationship. Using an original dataset of congressional hostility toward China, it shows that China penalizes the president for congressional hostility by reducing its willingness to cooperate by a factor of four. The majority of congressional hostility toward China can be traced to economic conditions in members' home districts and to members' electoral incentives, rather than genuine foreign policy concerns. Finally, it probes how American radio propaganda and human rights pressure affect Chinese foreign policy and political behavior in China.

    Autocratic Propaganda in a Globalized World [PDF]

    The battle for citizens' minds has long preoccupied the world's autocrats. Joseph Goebbels, architect of Nazi Germany's propaganda apparatus, believed that "propaganda becomes ineffective the moment we are aware of it." This conviction permeated his work. Since broadcasting exclusively positive news would "fairly compel the German public to listen to foreign and enemy broadcasts," Goebbels instructed state media to report information that damaged the government. When crafting propaganda, Goebbels again insisted on truth: "otherwise the enemy or the facts might expose falsehoods." He routinely employed "black propaganda." If responding to enemy allegations in the state press might lend them credibility, Goebbels organized "word of mouth propaganda" campaigns waged by "faithful citizens, which were successful as long as the citizens targeted by these campaigns were unaware of them."

    If Goebbels is correct, then the modern world should be particularly inhospitable for autocratic propaganda. Two decades ago, less than 1% of the world’s population enjoyed internet access; today, roughly 40% does. Each passing second registers more than 50,000 Google searches and 2.5m emails. The challenges that the Information Age poses to the world’s autocrats are compounded by Western governments, who pressure autocrats to permit independent media. As a result, citizens around the world are cognizant of democratic norms and their governments’ failures to abide them. Even in Africa, where internet access remains limited, citizens Google their democratic aspirations – with words like "democracy," "human rights," and "constitution" – more than anywhere else in the world. How do autocrats employ propaganda in the Information Age?

    For an annotated table of contents, please consult the link above.

    Autocrats and their Lobbyists:
    The Politics of Foreign Influence [PDF]

    Governments around the world invest billions of dollars each year to shape American policy. Under contract to foreign governments – and, accordingly, acting on their behalf – Washington lobbyists meet with American lawmakers, fund their congressional campaigns, draft the legislative bills they sponsor, pressure the executive branch and agencies, disseminate media kits to leading newspapers, and build policy alliances among stakeholders.

    Which of the word’s governments invest most heavily in Washington lobbyists? Why? When? What do they get in return? Drawing on fieldwork in Central Africa and East Asia, our central argument is that Washington lobbying is a critical tool for the world’s worst governments to advance their domestic political interests. Moreover, we suspect that lobbying works: that the world’s autocrats routinely purchase a measure of international immunity from domestic human rights violations.

    To explore its hypotheses more systematically, this book draws on an original dataset of all lobbying activities ever undertaken by foreign governments in the United States since 1945. The database exploits the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires all agents who represent foreign principals to file detailed activity reports every six months. These activity reports, referred to as Supplemental Statements, are then made available on a website, which FARA requires the US Department of Justice to maintain. These Supplemental Statements include wealth of information: every penny foreign governments transfer to Washington lobbyists, every contact that Washington lobbyists undertake with American government officials and media outlets on the foreign government’s behalf, every campaign contribution Washington lobbyists make while under contract, and much more. Once completed, this dataset will offer the first complete, fully searchable history of foreign lobbying in the United States. We intend to maintain the dataset in real time, long after the book is completed.

    For an annotated table of contents, please consult the link above.
  • Under Review

    Diversionary Aggression and Elite Welfare Shocks in Autocracies: Evidence from China. [PDF] [Online Appendix]

    The Influence of Congress upon America’s China Policy. [PDF]

    Small Events in High Politics: Diplomacy and Trust in US-China Relations.

    Cultivating the Appearance of Neutrality: Autocratic Propaganda in Africa and Asia. With Brett L. Carter. [PDF]

    Propaganda and Protest: Evidence from Post-Cold War Africa. With Brett L. Carter. [PDF] Revise & resubmit.

    Working Papers

    Explaining Foreign Coverage in the New York Times. With Brett L. Carter and James Fearon.

    Propaganda and Protest: Evidence from China's Provincial Newspapers. With Brett L. Carter.

    Autocrats and their Lobbyists: The Politics of Foreign Influence. With Brett L. Carter.

  • Courses

    Historical Approaches to International Relations, Fall 2017 (Syllabus)

    This course is an introduction to the history of the modern international system. It begins with the early principles of American foreign policy. It examines the origins of World War I and why the Wilsonian moment crumbled into isolationism, economic depression, and fascism. It then reviews the causes and conduct of World War II. Then, it discusses how the United States and Europe constructed the post-war order. It introduces the Cold War, the atomic age, and the rise of China. It describes the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unique moment known as the ``end of history.'' It then reviews what followed: the consolidation of the European Union, democracy promotion and the Third Wave, and the rising foreign policy salience of state failure and humanitarian crises. The course then reviews the evidence for the return of history: the ``clash of civilizations'' theory, political instability in the Middle East, and the War on Terror. It explores democratic backsliding and evidence for institutional decay in the United States and Europe. It concludes with a discussion of the far right in comparative perspective, propaganda and censorship, and the struggle to develop international responses to climate change.

    China in International Affairs, Fall 2016 (Syllabus) (Evals)

    China has been interacting with the world for millennia. No course can attempt a meaningful synthesis of that history in one semester. Therefore it is useful to begin with what this course is not. It is not a history course, nor is it a course on China’s domestic politics (though they often influence its international affairs in decisive ways). Instead, this course aims to explain China’s contemporary engagement with the world. To do so, it draws upon historical cases, empirical evidence, and international relations theory. Part I of the course presents students with theoretical tools and historical background on China’s foreign relations. Part II introduces the domestic political institutions that shape China’s engagement with the world. Part III focuses on China’s economic relations with the world. Part IV focuses on China’s political-military relations with major powers and multilateral organizations. The course concludes by asking, does China have a grand strategy in international affairs? If so, what is it, who is responsible for crafting it, and how successful has it been?

    The Political Economy of China, Spring 2017 (Syllabus) (Evals)

    This course surveys the political economy of China. It begins with China’s political institutions and its economic history from pre-revolutionary times to the present. It then explores China’s rural and urban economies, private sector, local governments, income inequality, social welfare provision, and macroeconomic planning. It next turns to China’s international trade and foreign investment. It concludes with a review of China’s demographic trends and environmental issues. Throughout the course, we will focus on the changing role of state-society relations. To what degree has political reform accompanied economic reform? Is the state increasingly accountable to citizens? Or has China become trapped in a partial reform equilibrium in which elite interests impede further liberalization? An introductory economics course is a helpful, but not required, precursor to this course.

    Chinese Foreign Policy, Spring 2017, Fall 2017 (Syllabus)(Evals)

    This advanced undergraduate seminar explores contemporary issues in Chinese foreign policy. It explores how Chinese policymakers pursue their goals: through diplomacy, force, trade, propaganda, and normative appeals to soft power. The course asks students to consider a number of important questions. To what degree can leading international relations theories explain China’s behavior abroad? Given the broad spectrum of Chinese political actors — the paramount leader, political elites, the military, and the public – whose preferences are influential, and when? What role do geographic features, economic interests, and secessionist movements play? Does China have a grand strategy, and if so, what is it? The course presumes familiarity with the basic contours of Chinese history and politics.
  • Talks


    Elite Welfare and Chinese Foreign Policy


    Pennsylvania, PA


    Autocrats and their Lobbyists

    Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting

    Chicago, IL


    Explaining Foreign Coverage in the New York Times

    Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting

    Chicago, IL


    Propaganda and Protest

    Text as Data Speaker Series

    NYU, New York


    Honest Propaganda

    New Directions in Analyzing Text as Data Conference

    Northeastern University, Boston


    Propaganda and Protest

    CIS Working Paper Series

    USC, Los Angeles


    Congressional Influence on US China Policy

    The China Card: Politics vs. Policy

    USC US-China Institute, Los Angeles