Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Making a case for quantitative research in the study of modern Chinese history: The New China News Agency and Chinese policy views of Vietnam, 1977–1993
by Lamont, Ian, A.L.M., Harvard University, 2008, 104; 1457488
Abstract (Summary)

Scholarly appraisals of China's post-1949 foreign policy have been largely shaped by qualitative research, using techniques such as "Beijingology" and the selective citations of primary and secondary sources. While helpful in conducting inquiries into certain historical trends and policy issues, qualitative methodologies are susceptible to researcher bias, and can lead to disagreement over the relative importance of different factors in shaping Chinese policy. This thesis asks whether a rigorous quantitative methodology can more effectively highlight trends and answer questions relating to modern Chinese history and government policy. Specifically, can a computer content analysis (CCA) based on news published by the state-run Xinhua/New China News Agency (NCNA) provide an accurate gauge of the international outlook of the Chinese leadership? This study establishes the reliability and effectiveness of quantitative, computer-driven historical research by undertaking a three-stage CCA of NCNA content concerning a specific topic: Beijing's official views of Vietnam during the Deng Xiaoping era. The data from the CCA also answers an academic question framed by the qualitative research of Robert S. Ross and Charles McGregor: During the 1980s, was China's central leadership primarily concerned with Hanoi's military and economic alliance with Moscow, and the potential for Soviet encirclement of China? Or was Beijing more worried about Vietnam's regional ambitions in Southeast Asia? The CCA results clearly support the regionally themed thesis outlined by McGregor, while casting doubt upon the Soviet-focused findings of Ross. Not only was NCNA coverage of Vietnam overwhelmingly oriented toward issues touching Kampuchea and the brutal war there, but also NCNA reports about Vietnam's interactions with other counties in Southeast Asia were far more negative than NCNA articles about Hanoi and Moscow, even when sampled news reports excluded references to the dire situation in Kampuchea. The CCA methodology, which counted the frequency of country references in NCNA articles and gauged the positive and negative tone of NCNA coverage throughout the Deng era, serves as a template for further inquiry into China's views of the world. It also establishes the advantages of using quantitative research to explore certain issues relating to modern Chinese history and foreign policy.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Johnston, Alastair I.
School: Harvard University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: MAI 47/02M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: History, Modern history, Mass communications
Keywords: China, Chinese media, Content analysis, Propaganda, Vietnam, Xinhua
Publication Number: 1457488
ISBN: 9780549844679
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