Foreign Policy in Hard Economic Times

Tuesday, April 5, 2022
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to William J Perry Conference Room in Encina Hall may attend in person. 

  • Frederick R. Chen

For winter quarter 2022, CISAC will be hosting hybrid events. Many events will offer limited-capacity in-person attendance for Stanford faculty, staff, fellows, visiting scholars, and students in accordance with Stanford’s health and safety guidelines, and be open to the public online via Zoom. All CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone. 


About the Event: Freddy Chen has developed a domestic political theory to explain the consequences of economic shocks for foreign policy. He argues that political leaders have incentives to improve their perceived competence by linking economic grievances to foreign countries. This linkage, in turn, increases public desire for more hawkish foreign policy. Nonetheless, leaders’ ability to make such connections depends on whether they can successfully manipulate information about the culpability for economic shocks. Therefore, the extent to which leaders can control the information environment determines whether an economic shock leads to more aggressive foreign policy. Survey experiments fielded on the American public and a unique sample of U.S. foreign policy analysts show that the information environment shapes elites’ expectations about leaders’ political behavior, public perceptions of leader competence, perceived culpability for the economic shock, and public preferences over foreign policy. Moreover, a cross-national analysis demonstrates that an economic shock tends to increase foreign policy hawkishness if the shock is more foreign-related or if the public has less access to a potential voice of the opposition. This article advances our understanding of the relationship between economic shocks, foreign policy, and public opinion as well as the interactions between domestic politics and international relations, with important implications for both political science research and policymakers.

About the Speaker: Frederick Chen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and currently a Pre-doctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. His research focuses on how economics and security can interact to influence international relations, particularly through domestic political mechanisms. His work has appeared in the Journal of Politics and Conflict Management and Peace Science. He received the David A. Lake Award for best paper from the International Political Economy Society. He earned his M.A. in International Relations from Peking University (2016) and B.A. in International Politics from Tsinghua University (2013).