Erin Baggott - 2016
  • Biography

    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 Chinese propaganda constructed with methods from computational social science. Her book manuscript finds that the United States and China employ diplomacy to build trust and cooperation, but that the domestic politics of each country can fundamentally destabilize this process.

    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 at @baggottcarter. She can be reached via email at

    [curriculum vitae]

  • The Domestic Sources of US-China Relations

    My 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.

  • 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]

    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]

    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

    China in International Affairs, Fall 2016 (Syllabus)

    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)

    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

    This undergraduate seminar explores Chinese foreign policy since 1949. It addresses China’s bilateral relations with major and emerging powers and its involvement in international institutions. It explores how Chinese policymakers pursue their goals: through diplomacy, force, trade, 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 – who makes decisions and whose preferences are important? What role do economic interests play in Chinese foreign policy? Does China have a grand strategy, and if so, what is it?
  • Talks


    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