How the Pro-Beijing Media Influences Voters: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Many countries have devoted resources to projecting influence internationally. One common approach to launching overseas information campaigns is the cooptation of foreign media outlets to disseminate preferred messages; yet, there is little well-identified evidence that can tell us whether such influence operations are effective. I conducted a field experiment during the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election to examine whether and how a major pro-Beijing media outlet influenced individuals’ vote choices and opinions about China. Weeks before the election, I randomly provided voters with real-time political news articles from the pro-Beijing media outlet on a website and tracked their exposure patterns using web traffic data. Results based on a panel survey at the individual level show that pro-Beijing news nudged people exposed to it to vote for China’s preferred candidate and adopt more positive attitudes toward China. Yet the pro-Beijing media outlet in this study had a negligible effect, sometimes even backfired, for voters who had been dismissive of China ex ante and those who think this media outlet is affiliated with the Chinese government. Further evidence suggests that the results were driven by news content rather than news source. Because Taiwan is not the only case China seeks to influence in this way, the results have implications for Hong Kong, Australia, and the United States, among others.


Jay Kao is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government specializing in political communication, political behavior, public opinions, and politics in authoritarian regimes. Using the case of China, his research examines whether and how political persuasion influences both domestic and foreign audiences’ behaviors and attitudes. He also analyzes the conditions under which China varies persuasive messages in media broadcasting. Part of his recent work is forthcoming in Public Opinion Quarterly.

Speaker(s) Mr Jay KAO
PhD Candidate, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin
Date 22 Jan 2021 (Friday)
Time 12:00 noon
Venue Online Via ZOOM (link will be sent via email)

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