Professor Ethan Kapstein, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management

Federal grant allows ASU professor, colleagues to research new ways to measure Chinese influence in world affairs

New ways to measure how China influences global affairs will be explored by a team of scholars including School of Public Affairs Professor Ethan Kapstein in a three-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Kapstein, who holds the Arizona Centennial Chair in International Affairs and is also a professor at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, will serve as a co-principal investigator for research funded by a $961,000 grant from the Defense Department’s Minerva Research Initiative.

The team will measure China's influence among countries receiving funding from its "Belt and Road Initiative” as well as how opinion toward China is shifting in the region.

"Many scholars and policy-makers speak of China's increasing 'influence' around the world," Kapstein said. "But measuring that influence remains elusive. The purpose of this project is to provide the concept of influence with some stronger theoretical and empirical foundations, and in so doing advance policy-relevant research on contemporary world politics."

The award is among $6.7 million in grants Congress funded for four university-based Minerva faculty teams to support their research in social and behavioral science, according to a Defense Department statement.

“This research will increase understanding of the social aspects that underlie security and stability and how they may result in challenges to national security,” the statement said. “Proposals were selected based on their potential to make foundational contributions to basic social science in social media analytics for foreign malign influence and the intersection of peer and near-peer state actors. Faculty awardees were selected for the awards following a merit competition.”

Co-principal investigators with Kapstein are professors Jacob Shapiro of Princeton University and Joseph Felter of Stanford University.