Chinese investment and elite sentiment in Southeast Asia: An event study of influence along the belt and road
Recent years have seen growing concerns expressed by political leaders throughout the west about rising Chinese “influence” around the world. Yet, measuring political influence remains a challenge to social science. In this paper, we seek to advance our understanding of influence by comparing the expressed attitudes towards China of politicians within three Southeast Asian states (the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia) whose electoral districts have received Chinese Belt and Road investments versus those who have not. Specifically, we adopt the difference-in-difference design, interacting China-related foreign policy “shocks” with sentiment analysis based on Twitter and Facebook posts. We find little support for the assertion that Chinese investments are leading to increased political influence in these countries, at least in terms of influencing the sentiments expressed by local politicians.