Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Information from Abroad: Foreign Media, Selective Exposure and Political Support in China

  • Haifeng Huang and Yao-Yuan Yeh
Abstract

What kind of content do citizens in a developing and authoritarian country like to acquire from Western free media? What are the effects of their potentially selective exposure? In a survey experiment involving 1,200 Chinese internet users from diverse socio-demographic backgrounds, this study finds that Chinese citizens with higher pro-Western orientations and lower regime evaluations are more inclined to read content that is positive about foreign countries or negative about China. More importantly, reading relatively positive foreign media content about foreign countries can improve rather than worsen the domestic evaluations of citizens who self-select such content. The article argues that this is because reputable Western media outlets’ reports are generally more realistic than overly rosy information about foreign socio-economic conditions that popularly circulates in China. Consequently, foreign media may have a corrective function and enhance regime stability in an authoritarian country by making regime critics less critical. The article also introduces a new variant of the patient preference trial design that integrates self-selection and random assignment of treatments in a way that is useful for studying information effects.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, University of California, Merced (email: hhuang24@ucmerced.edu); Center for International Studies, University of St. Thomas (email: yehy@stthom.edu). A previous version of this article was titled ‘Foreign Media, Selective Exposure, and Opinion Change in China’. For helpful comments, the authors would like to thank three anonymous reviewers, Editor Rob Johns, Junyan Jiang, Nikitas Konstantinidis, Patricia Maclachlan, Andrew Mertha, Graeme Robertson, Hans Stockton, Wenfang Tang, Wen-Chin Wu, Dali Yang and audience members at EPSA, MPSA, Cornell University China-Russia Workshop, University of Chicago East Asia Workshop and Zhejiang University Institute of Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences (ZJUIAS). Huang would also like to thank ZJUIAS for hosting him as a visiting scholar in summer 2016 to work on the article. Replication data are available at https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS and online appendices are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123416000739.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Arceneaux, Kevin, and Johnson, Martin. 2013. Changing Minds or Changing Channels? Partisan News in an Age of Choice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Arceneaux, Kevin, and Johnson, Martin. 2015. How Does Media Choice Affect Hostile Media Perceptions? Evidence from Participant Preference Experiments. Journal of Experimental Political Science 2 (1):1225.
Bartels, Larry M. 1993. Messages Received: The Political Impact of Media Exposure. American Political Science Review 87 (2):267285.
Bauer, Raymond. 1964. The Obstinate Audience: The Influence Process from the Point of View of Social Communication. American Psychologist 19 (5):319328.
Baum, Matthew A., and Groeling, Tim. 2009. Shot by the Messenger: Partisan Cues and Public Opinion Regarding National Security and War. Political Behavior 31 (2):157186.
Bennett, W. Lance, and Iyengar, Shanto. 2008. A New Era of Minimal Effects? The Changing Foundations of Political Communication. Journal of Communication 58 (4):707731.
Berinsky, Adam J. 2017. Rumors and Health Care Reform: Experiments in Political Misinformation. British Journal of Political Science 47 (2):241262.
Besley, Timothy J., and Case, Anne C.. 1995. Incumbent Behavior: Vote-Seeking, Tax-Setting, and Yardstick Competition. American Economic Review 85 (1):2545.
Bildner, Eli. 2013. Chinese Web Users Marvel at Detroit, Where a Home Is As Cheap As a Pair of Shoes. Tea Leaf Nation, 22 March. Available from http://www.tealeafnation.com/2013/03/chinese-web-users-marvel-at-detroit-where-a-home-as-cheap-as-a-pair-of-shoes/, accessed 23 March 2013.
Bosker, Bianca. 2013. Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Cantril, Hadley. 1942. Professor Quiz: A Gratifications Study. In Radio Research 1941 , edited by Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Frank Stanton, 3445. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce.
CNNIC. 2016. The 37th Statistical Report of Internet Development in China. Beijing: China Internet Network Information Center.
Conroy-Krutz, Jeffrey, and Moehler, Devra C.. 2015. Moderation from Bias: A Field Experiment on Partisan Media in a New Democracy. Journal of Politics 77 (2):575587.
Delli, Carpini, Michael, X., and Scott, Keeter. 1996. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dong, Lisheng, Wang, Zhengxu, and Dekker, Henk, eds. 2013. China and European Union. New York: Routledge.
Easterlin, Richard A. 1995. Will Raising the Incomes of All Increase the Happiness of All? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 27 (1):3547.
The Economist . 2016. The Panama Papers Embarrass Chinas Leaders, 7 April.
Egorov, Georgy, Sergei, Guriev, and Sonin, Konstantin. 2009. Why Resource-Poor Dictators Allow Freer Media: A Theory and Evidence from Panel Data. American Political Science Review 103 (4):645668.
Fallows, James. 2008. The Connection Has Been Reset. The Atlantic Monthly 301 (2):19.
Festinger, Leon. 1957. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Frey, Dieter. 1986. Recent Research on Selective Exposure to Information. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 19 (1):4180.
Gaines, Brian J., and Kuklinski, James H.. 2011. Experimental Estimation of Heterogeneous Treatment Effects Related to Self-Selection. American Journal of Political Science 55 (3):724736.
Gaines, Brian J., Kuklinski, James H., and Quirk, Paul J.. 2007. The Logic of the Survey Experiment Reexamined. Political Analysis 15 (1):120.
Garrett, R. Kelly, Carnahan, Dustin, and Lynch, Emily K.. 2013. A Turn Toward Avoidance? Selective Exposure to Online Political Information, 2004–2008. Political Behavior 35 (1):113134.
Garrett, R. Kelly, and Stroud, Natalie Jomini. 2014. Partisan Paths to Exposure Diversity: Differences in Pro- and Counterattitudinal News Consumption. Journal of Communication 64 (4):680701.
Geddes, Barbara, and Zaller, John. 1989. Sources of Popular Support for Authoritarian Regimes. American Journal of Political Science 33 (2):319347.
Gentzkow, Matthew, and Shapiro, Jesse M.. 2006. Media Bias and Reputation. Journal of Political Economy 114 (2):280316.
Gerber, Alan, and Green, Donald. 1999. Misperceptions About Perceptual Bias. Annual Review of Political Science 2:189210.
Han, Rongbin. 2015. Manufacturing Consent in Cyberspace: China’s ‘Fifty-Cent Army’. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 44 (2):105134.
Hart, William, Albarracn, Dolores, Eagly, Alice H., Brechan, Inge, Lindberg, Matthew J., and Merrill, Lisa. 2009. Feeling Validated Versus Being Correct: A Meta-Analysis of Selective Exposure to Information. Psychological Bulletin 135 (4):555588.
Holbert, R. Lance, Garrett, R. Kelly, and Gleason, Laurel S.. 2010. A New Era of Minimal Effects? A Response to Bennett and Iyengar. Journal of Communication 60 (1):1534.
Huang, Haifeng. 2015a. International Knowledge and Domestic Evaluations in a Changing Society: The Case of China. American Political Science Review 109 (3):613634.
Huang, Haifeng. 2015b. Propaganda as Signaling. Comparative Politics 47 (4):419437.
Huang, Haifeng. 2017. A War of (Mis)Information: The Political Effects of Rumors and Rumor Rebuttals in an Authoritarian Country. British Journal of Political Science 47 (2):283312.
Iyengar, Shanto, and Hahn, Kyu S.. 2009. Red Media, Blue Media: Evidence of Ideological Selectivity in Media Use. Journal of Communication 59 (1):1939.
Karlan, Dean, and Zinman, Jonathan. 2009. Observing Unobservables: Identifying Information Asymmetries with a Consumer Credit Field Experiment. Econometrica 77 (6):19932008.
Katz, Elihu, Blumler, Jay G., and Gurevitch, Michael. 1973–1974. Uses and Gratifications Research. Public Opinion Quarterly 37 (4):509523.
Kayser, Mark Andreas, and Peress, Michael. 2012. Benchmarking Across Borders: Electoral Accountability and the Necessity of Comparison. American Political Science Review 106 (3):661684.
Kern, Holger Lutz, and Hainmueller, Jens. 2009. Opium for the Mass: How Foreign Free Media Can Stabilize Authoritarian Regimes. Political Analysis 17 (4):377399.
King, Michael, Nazareth, Irwin, Lampe, Fiona, Bower, Peter, Chandler, Martin, Morou, Maria, Sibbald, Bonnie, and Lai, Rosalind. 2005. Impact of Participant and Physician Intervention Preferences on Randomized Trials: A Systematic Review. Journal of the American Medical Association 293 (9):10891099.
Knobloch-Westerwick, Silvia. 2012. Selective Exposure and Reinforcement of Attitudes and Partisanship Before a Presidential Election. Journal of Communication 62 (4):628642.
Knobloch-Westerwick, Silvia, and Meng, Jingbo. 2009. Looking the Other Way: Selective Exposure to Attitude-Consistent and Counterattitudinal Political Information. Communication Research 36 (3):426448.
Knox, Dean, Yamamoto, Teppei, Baum, Matthew A., and Berinsky, Adam. 2014. Design, Identification, and Sensitivity Analysis for Patient Preference Trials. Working Paper.
Lazarsfeld, Paul Felix, Berelson, Bernard, and Gaudet, Hazel. 1948. The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lei, Ya-Wen. 2011. The Political Consequences of the Rise of the Internet: Political Beliefs and Practices of Chinese Netizens. Political Communication 28 (3):291322.
Levendusky, Matthew S. 2013. Why Do Partisan Media Polarize Viewers? American Journal of Political Science 57 (3):611623.
Levin, Dan. 2014. Adidos and Hotwind? In China, Brands Adopt Names to Project Foreign Flair. New York Times, 27 December.
Lord, Charles G., Ross, Lee, and Lepper, Mark R.. 1979. Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37 (11):20982109.
Lorentzen, Peter L. 2014. China’s Strategic Censorship. American Journal of Political Science 58 (2):402414.
Los Angeles Times . 2014. China’s President Gives Blogger 15 Minutes of Fame – and Scrutiny, 22 October.
Lu, Jie, Aldrich, John, and Shi, Tianjian. 2014. Revisiting Media Effects in Authoritarian Societies: Democratic Conceptions, Collectivistic Norms, and Media Access in Urban China. Politics & Society 42 (2):253283.
Meirowitz, Adam, and Tucker, Joshua. 2013. A Dynamic Model of Protest: People Power or a One Shot Deal. American Journal of Political Science 57 (2):478490.
Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Shleifer, Andrei. 2005. The Market for News. American Economic Review 95 (4):10311053.
Neidhart, Christoph. 2015. Mythos von der deutschen Perfektion [Myth of German Perfection]. Sddeutsche Zeitung, 2 January.
Nelson, Michael. 1997. War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Nicholson, Stephen P. 2011. Dominating Cues and the Limits of Elite Influence. Journal of Politics 73 (4):11651177.
Prior, Markus. 2007. Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Prior, Markus. 2013. Media and Political Polarization. Annual Review of Political Science 16:101127.
Puddington, Arch. 2000. Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
Redlawsk, David P. 2002. Hot Cognition or Cool Consideration? Testing the Effects of Motivated Reasoning on Political Decision Making. Journal of Politics 64 (4):10211044.
Robertson, Graeme B. ForthcomingPolitical Orientation, Information and Perceptions of Electoral Fraud: Evidence from Russia. British Journal of Political Science. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123415000356.
Rosen, Stanley. 2010. Chapter 7: Chinese Youth and State-Society Relations. In Chinese Politics: State, Society and the Market, edited by Peter Hays Gries and Stanley Rosen, 160178. New York: Routledge.
Ruggiero, Thomas E. 2000. Uses and Gratifications Theory in the 21st Century. Mass Communication & Society 3 (1):337.
Shadmehr, Mehdi, and Bernhardt, Dan. 2011. Collective Action with Uncertain Payoffs: Coordination, Public Signals and Punishment Dilemmas. American Political Science Review 105 (4):829851.
Shi, Tianjian, Lu, Jie, and Aldrich, John. 2011. Bifurcated Images of the U.S. in Urban China and the Impact of Media Environment. Political Communication 28 (3):357376.
Slater, Michael D. 2007. Reinforcing Spirals: The Mutual Influence of Media Selectivity and Media Effects and Their Impact on Individual Behavior and Social Identity. Communication Theory 17 (3):281303.
Stroud, Natalie Jomini. 2007. Media Effects, Selective Exposure, and Fahrenheit 9/11. Political Communication 24 (4):415432.
Stroud, Natalie Jomini. 2008. Media Use and Political Predispositions: Revisiting the Concept of Selective Exposure. Political Behavior 30 (3):341366.
Sunstein, Cass R. 2001. Republic.Com 2.0. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Taber, Charles S., and Lodge, Milton. 2006. Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs. American Journal of Political Science 50 (3):755769.
Tai, Qiuqing. 2016. Western Media Exposure and Chinese Immigrants Political Perceptions. Political Communication 33 (1):7897.
Timmons, Heather. 2015. How the New York Times is Eluding Censors in China. Quartz, 6 April. Available from http://qz.com/374299/how-the-new-york-times-is-eluding-chinas-censors/, accessed 21 July 2016.
Torgerson, David J., and Sibbald, Bonnie. 1998. Understanding Controlled Trials. What is a Patient Preference Trial? British Medical Journal 316:360.
Truex, Rory. 2014. Who Believes the People’s Daily? Bias and Credibility in Authoritarian Media. Working Paper.
Wedeen, Lisa. 1999. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Xinhua. 2015. China’s Mobile Internet Users Hit 875 Mln. Available from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-11/10/c_134802668.htm, accessed 21 July 2016.
Yang, Guobin. 2009. The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online. New York: Columbia University Press.
Yang, Lijun, and Zheng, Yongnian. 2012. Fenqing (Angry Youth) in Contemporary China. Journal of Contemporary China 21 (76):37653.
Yung, Jean. 2011. Indian ‘Immigration Bureau’ Thrilled Chinese Internet With Tales of Democracy, Free Trains. China Realtime Report, The Wall Street Journal, 29 August. Available from http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/08/29/indian-immigration-bureau-thrills-chinese-internet-with-tales-of-democracy-free-trains/?mod=WSJBlog, accessed 21 July 2016.
Zaller, John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Zhan, Jiang. 2011. Xinwen Lianbo Yinggai Zenme Gai (How Should Xinwen Lianbo Be Changed), China Newsweek, 28 September. Available from http://viewpoint.inewsweek.cn/columns/columns_detail.php?id=481, accessed 6 January 2015.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Huang and Yeh supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (193 KB)
193 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed