Scholars' Blog

Trinity 2023
Rachel Liu (co-authored with Haohan Chen)
By Rachel Liu (co-authored with Haohan Chen)

Showing Vulnerability of A Powerful State: How Chinese State-owned Media Propagated 2019 Hong Kong Protests


What are authoritarian states’ propaganda strategies facing anti-regime collective action? Previous studies suggest that the state would signal regime strength to deter potential dissents. In this article, we argue that dictators may signal vulnerability instead of strength to delegitimize collective action and claim popularity. We test our theory with the case of the 2019 Hong Kong protest. We analyze news reports mentioning Hong Kong in National Daily Broadcast, China’s most-viewed state-run news program. We find that state-run media focuses on the vulnerability of Hong Kong citizens and the regime under both internal and external threats. In this effort, China frames itself as a paternalistic, benevolent, and caring regime which endures local chaos and supports economic development. This study makes theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of political communication in authoritarian regimes.

About the authors
Rachel Liu, 2022 Kwok Scholar, is pursuing the MPhil in Comparative Government at Oxford.
Chan Haohan is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong.

This research paper was accepted by the 2023 American Political Science Association Annual Conference and the 2023 European Political Science Association Annual Conference.