Reading China

By: Weifeng Zhong  

While China’s industrialization process has long been a product of government direction until now there has been no quantitative measures of the Chinese government's policy priorities over a long period of time. We fill this gap by devising the first of such measures, the Policy Change Index (PCI) of China, which runs from 1952 to the present. We use the full texts of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, as raw data to construct the PCI. Our method is based on LSTM networks (à la Hochreiter and Schmidhuber, 1997) and the CUSUM test (à la Page, 1954) to detect significant changes in the policy-importance of People’s Daily articles. This method allows us to infer the shift in the priorities of the Chinese government's policies. The constructed PCI not only matches important policy changes that have taken place in China---such as the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the economic reform program---but is also able to make short-term predictions about China’s future policy directions.

Propaganda, China, Media
Media Theory
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Weifeng Zhong

Research Fellow, Economic Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute, United States
-, United States

Weifeng Zhong is a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where his research focuses on Chinese economic issues and political economy. His recent work has been on the application of text-analytic and machine-learning techniques to political economy issues such as the US presidential election, income inequality, and predicting policy changes in China. Dr. Zhong has been published in a variety of scholarly journals, including the Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics. In the popular press, his writings have appeared in the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, and Real Clear Politics, among others. Dr. Zhong has a Ph.D. and an M.Sc. in managerial economics and strategy from Northwestern University. He also holds M.Econ. and M.Phil. degrees in economics from the University of Hong Kong and a B.A. in business administration from Shantou University in China.