Policy Report

Ties That Bind: Quantifying China's public diplomacy and its "good neighbor" effect

Date Published

Jun 27, 2018


Samantha Custer, Brooke Russell, Matthew DiLorenzo, Mengfan Cheng, Siddhartha Ghose, Jacob Sims, Jennifer Turner, Harsh Desai



Custer, S., Russell, B. DiLorenzo, M., Cheng, M., Ghose, S., Sims, J., Turner, J., and H. Desai. (2018). Ties That Bind: Quantifying China’s public diplomacy and its "good neighbor" effect. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.


Ties That Bind offers new and comprehensive detail on the nature and impact of Chinese public diplomacy in the region most important to its strategic interests: East Asia and the Pacific (EAP). 

There is a growing consensus that Beijing has dramatically increased the volume and sophistication of its public diplomacy efforts under President Xi Jinping. Yet there has historically been a lack of quantifiable data to assess the scope and downstream consequences of these activities. 

To this end, AidData, in collaboration with the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has assembled new data on Chinese public diplomacy programs in East Asia and the Pacific from 2000 through 2016. This first-of-its-kind report quantifies multiple aspects of China's public diplomacy—financial, cultural, exchange, and elite-to-elite diplomacy—across 25 countries to assess how it is received by foreign publics and leaders and determine whether it is meeting Beijing’s objectives.

In addition to extensive quantitative data, the reports draws from on-the-ground insights from over 70 government officials, civil society and private sector leaders, academics, journalists, and foreign diplomats in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Fiji, and interviews with public diplomacy scholars and practitioners.

This study was conducted with generous support from the United States Department of State and in partnership with the Asia Society Policy Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report's findings and conclusions are those of its authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of funder and partner organizations.