External Coercion and Public Support: The Case of the US -- China Trade War

Domestic support is crucial for state leaders facing international challenges. Conventional wisdom suggests that citizens support their government in its efforts to stand firm against external coercion. However, it is unclear how strongly citizens would continue to support hardline policies if the cost of conflict dramatically increases. This paper examines public support for the Chinese government during the US–China trade war. With a two-wave survey of Chinese citizens, we explore the impact of the government’s strategy on public approval through two causal mechanisms: the state’s reputation for resolve and economic consequences. We show that respondents’ support for standing firm relative to backing down was strengthened by gains in the state’s reputation for resolve but attenuated by economic losses. We also show respondents’ growing sensitivity to economic losses as the situation escalated. With social media data, we uncover supplementary evidence for growing economic concerns among the Chinese public.


Jiahua Yue is currently a PhD candidate in political science at Yale University. He has broad interests in international political economy, interstate conflict, and applied computational methods. Specifically, he conducts research projects on nationalism, trade, innovation, and Chinese politics. Among other outlets, his research has been published in the British Journal of Political Science and World Development. He is currently working on topics of US–China relations, the origins of indigenous innovation and green technology in China, and public support for COVID lockdown in the cross-national context.

Speaker(s) Mr Jiahua YUE
PhD candidate in Political Science at Yale University
Date 28 Jan 2021 (Thursday)
Time 11:00 am
Venue Online Via Zoom (link will be sent via email)

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