Erin Baggott - 2024
  • Biography

    Erin Baggott Carter (赵雅芬) is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California and a Hoover Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. She is also a non-resident scholar at the UCSD 21st Century China Center. She has previously held fellowships at Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and Center for International Security and Cooperation. She received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University.

    Dr. Carter's research focuses on Chinese politics and propaganda. Her first book, Propaganda in Autocracies (Cambridge University Press, 2023) explores how political institutions determine propaganda strategies with an original dataset of eight million articles in six languages drawn from state-run newspapers in nearly 70 countries. Her current book project, Changing Each Other: US-China Relations in the Shadow of Domestic Politics, argues that China and the United States are not inevitably destined for conflict, but their domestic politics make it more likely, and so both governments seek security by changing the other from within. Her other work has appeared or is forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Security Studies, International Interactions, China Quarterly, and Foreign Affairs. Her work has been featured by a number of media platforms, including the New York Times, the Economist, and the Little Red Podcast.

    Her research has been supported by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Center for International Studies at the University of Southern California, the Weatherhead Center for Inter-national Affairs at Harvard University, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.

    Dr. Carter's Google Scholar profile is here. She can be reached via email at baggott [at] or ebaggott [at]

  • Honorable Mention, APSA Luebbert Award for the Best
    Book in Comparative Politics

    Honorable Mention, APSA Democracy & Autocracy
    Section Best Book Award

    Changing Each Other: US-China Relations in the Shadow of Domestic Politics

    This book project argues that domestic politics in China and the US have consistently destabilized the bilateral relationship and made each side less secure. In China, when economic downturns threaten the leader's popularity, he initiates diversionary conflict with the United States. In the United States, legislators face electoral incentives to engage in "China bashing," which elicits hostility while failing to secure meaningful change in Chinese trade policies, military behavior, or domestic repression. To blunt these destabilizing factors, Beijing lobbies members of Congress to secure more favorable US foreign policy toward China. It courts American journalists to generate a climate of discourse that is more favorable to China's rise. Washington employs its own influence programs: Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts and elite exchange programs that foster demands for democracy. The two sides are locked in a struggle to improve their national security environments by meddling in each other's domestic politics.

    This book project marshals a range of original evidence to support this argument. It employs a day-level dataset of US-China interactions from 1949 to the present that includes events as minor as diplomatic letters and as significant as nuclear weapons tests. It records US assessments of China drawn from 100,000 pages of Freedom of Information Act requests, including newly declassified documents from the Clinton administration. It assembles detailed records on congressional China policy, American media coverage of China, and Chinese lobbying in the United States. It pairs simulations of VOA's broadcast range in China with data on local protests. Finally, it explores the writings of Chinese Fulbright scholars before and after their time in the United States. The analysis shows that though conflict between China and the United States occurs beneath the level of a "Thucydides Trap" that destines them for war, that conflict is still profound: over the nature of their foreign policy and who determines it. The book manuscript is currently under review.

  • Published and/or Forthcoming

    Do Chinese Citizens Conceal Their Opposition to the CCP? Evidence from Two Survey Experiments. With Brett Carter and Stephen Schick. China Quarterly. [web] [Economist coverage]

    Broadcasting Out-Group Repression to the In-Group: Evidence from China. With Brett Carter. Journal of Conflict Resolution. [PDF] [web]

    When Autocrats Threaten Citizens with Violence: Evidence from China. 2022. With Brett L. Carter. British Journal of Political Science. [PDF] [web]

    Questioning More: RT, America, and the Post-West World Order. With Brett L. Carter. Security Studies. 2021. [PDF] [web]

    Propaganda and Protest in Autocracies. 2021. With Brett L. Carter. Journal of Conflict Resolution. [PDF] [web]

    Focal Moments and Protests in Autocracies: How Pro-Democracy Anniversaries Shape Dissent in China. June 2020. With Brett L. Carter. Journal of Conflict Resolution. [PDF] [web] [Online Appendix]

    Diversionary Cheap Talk: Economic Conditions and US Foreign Policy Rhetoric, 1945-2010 International Interactions, January 2020. [PDF] [web]

    Revise & Resubmit

    Getting Ahead in the Chinese Communist Party: The Role of Repression. With Jonghyuk Lee and Victor Shih. R&R at Journal of Politics.

    Exporting the Tools of Dictatorship: The Politics of China's Technology Transfers to Africa. With Brett Carter. R&R at Perspectives on Politics.

    The Sparks that Become Prairie Fires: Religion and Preference Falsification in China. With Brett Carter. R&R at Comparative Political Studies.

    Working Papers

    When Beijing Goes to Washington: The Effect of Chinese Government Lobbying on US Politics and Media Coverage.

    The `Revolution from Below': The Voice of America and US Democracy Promotion in China.

    How Domestic Politics Yield Nationalist Propaganda and International Conflict in Autocracies.

    The Kremlin and K Street: Explaining Russian Influence in Washington. With Brett L. Carter.

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

    Other Writing

    Book Review of Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao’s Stratagem to the Rise of Xi by Victor C. Shih (Cambridge University Press). 2023. The Journal of Asian Studies 82(3): 469-470.

    Statement for the Record before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Hearing on China’s Global Influence and Interference Activities, March 23, 2023. [Web]

    American Democracy is Still in Danger: How to Protect It From Enemies Foreign and Domestic. With Brett Carter and Larry Diamond. Foreign Affairs, January 6, 2023. [Web]

    Tiananmen's Other Children. With Brett Carter. New York Times, June 4, 2020. [English] [中文]

    Diversionary Aggression in Chinese Foreign Policy. Brookings Institution, 2019. [Web]

    Propaganda and Electoral Constraints in Autocracies. With Brett L. Carter. Comparative Politics Newsletter, Fall 2018. [PDF]

    Chinese State-Run Media Favors Clinton Over Trump. Washington Post, 2016. [Web]

  • Courses

    Chinese Foreign Policy (Syllabus)

    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.

    Chinese Foreign Policy (Graduate) (Syllabus)

    This graduate level seminar reviews the political science literature on the international relations of China. It asks students to apply analytical tools from international relations and comparative politics to China, including approaches that involve systemic theories, identity, ideology, domestic factors, and psychology. In particular, it focuses on how China’s domestic conditions – political and economic, as well as popular and elite – motivate its foreign policy. Methodologically, the course reviews case study, archival, survey, field, and computational approaches to studying China. The course presumes familiarity with basic qualitative and quantitative methods in political science. It aims to prepare students to conduct original research on Asian security issues, international relations, and comparative politics.

    The Political Economy of China (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.

    China in International Affairs (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?

    Historical Approaches to International Relations (Syllabus)

    This course is an introduction to 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 and depression. It explores the rise of fascism and the sources of World War II. It discusses how the United States and Europe constructed the post-war order. It examines the politics of the Cold War and the atomic age. It reviews the fall of the Berlin Wall and what followed: the unique moment known as the “end of history” characterized by rising living standards and the spread of democracy across the globe. The final part of the course reviews the evidence for the return of history: the “clash of civilizations” thesis, the War on Terror, the politics of autocracy in China and Russia, and institutional decay and anti-globalist backlash in the United States and Europe. The course concludes with a discussion of the far right in comparative perspective and the role of propaganda in contemporary world politics.