Probing the behavior of an international bully
Political science doctoral student Ketian Zhang sheds light on China's use of coercion in foreign policy, hoping to span a deep divide
Although she grew up in a family of Communist Party stalwarts, Ketian Vivian Zhang never felt entirely at home in China’s patriotic education system.
“I learned that the world was less black and white than the party made it out to be,” says Zhang, a doctoral student in political science. By the time she was in high school, she was actively seeking alternative perspectives on China and its role in the world.
This search led to study abroad — first at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and then at MIT, where she has been studying international relations and comparative politics. More specifically, Zhang researches the strategies China has deployed since 1990 to achieve its ends in the world. The culmination of this work will be a dissertation provocatively titled “Calculating Bully — Explaining Chinese Coercion.”
By coercion, Zhang means the array of methods China employs to make other nations comply with its wishes in geopolitical and economic spheres. While other nations practice this form of statecraft, her research reveals some uniquely Chinese approaches.
“China’s choice of tools tends to be non-militarized,” Zhang says, especially in historical contrast with other rising powers. “They prefer to use economic and diplomatic sticks.”