Tongtong Zhang is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Stanford University and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Stanford Data Science Institute and Asia-Pacific Research Center. She studies political communication and the political economy of development in non-democracies, with a regional focus on China.
Her research seeks to understand how authoritarian regimes perpetuate their rule over societal actors (e.g. citizens, firms) and how preferences and behaviors of these societal actors are shaped as a result. Her dissertation and book project, “Authoritarian Responsiveness As Signaling,” asks why dictators lacking electoral incentives invest in deliberative institutions that respond to citizen requests. She argues that authoritarian rulers strategically maneuver responses of different qualities—providing substantive services to regime conformists and performing symbolic responses to potential organized opposition—in order to signal to the public that political obedience is rewarded with real benefits. In addition to deliberative institutions, Tongtong has also investigated other strategies of authoritarian control, including labor market discrimination, prescribing objectives in overseas operations, and splitting regime opponents into pro-democracy and anti-democracy camps. In exploring these questions, Tongtong uses a mixed-method approach, including qualitative interviews, archival research, computational methods with large-scale datasets, and survey and field experiments.
Tongtong’s work has been conditionally accepted at the Political Science Research and Methods. She holds a LL.B. in International Relations and a B.A. in Economics from Peking University, and a M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University.