Vaccine Nationalism: Propaganda and China’s Media Coverage of Vaccines


One perennial question in the propaganda literature is how responsive autocracies are to factual information. In China, its domestic vaccines have formed the basis for a significant amount of pro-regime propaganda. Accordingly, the emergence of studies indicating lower effectiveness of domestic vaccines compared to foreign competitors poses a significant rhetorical challenge for the regime? Do they engage in vaccine nationalism by continuing to promote vaccines that may be less effective? Or do they shift their positive rhetoric towards more effective foreign vaccines to ensure that their people will be willing to accept them as alternatives? We explore this puzzle using a novel data set of Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese news articles gathered between 2019-2021. With this data we employ a differences-in-differences identification strategy that exploits exogenous information shocks and differing incentives to produce pro-regime propaganda across state-run and private media outlets based inside and external to the Chinese mainland. With the results of this study, we hope to enhance our understanding of whether regimes are responsive to both the presence of factual information and incentives to provide for the public good.

Patrick J. Chester
Patrick J. Chester
Postdoctoral researcher at the China Data Lab at UC, San Diego

Patrick Chester is a postdoctoral researcher at the China Data Lab at UC, San Diego who received his PhD from New York University’s Politics Department.