Published: July 20, 2020

This is a paper written by
Yingjie Fan
Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Jennifer Pan
Stanford University

Zijie Shao
Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU) - School of Government

Yiqing Xu
Stanford University

Abstract: The cross-border flow of people for educational exchange in Western democracies is seen as a way to transfer democratic values to non-democratic regions of the world. What happens when students studying in the West encounter discrimination? Based on an experiment among hundreds of Chinese first-year undergraduates in the United States, we show that discrimination interferes with the transfer of democratic values. Chinese students who study in the United States are more predisposed to favor liberal democracy than their peers in China. However, anti-Chinese discrimination significantly reduces their belief that political reform is desirable for China and increases their support for authoritarian rule. These effects of discrimination are most pronounced among students who are more likely to reject Chinese nationalism. Encountering non-racist criticisms of the Chinese government does not increase support for authoritarianism. Our results are not explained by relative evaluations of US and Chinese government handling of COVID-19.

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