Please join us this Thursday, March 24, 2022 @12:00-1:15pm CDT for the next KU Trade War Lab speaker series event! 


Our speaker is Dr. David Bulman from Johns Hopkins SAIS. He will present a working paper titled "Are Americans Instinctive Commercial Peace Theorists? Interpreting Evolving Views of the US-China Trade War." Our discussants will be Dr. Kevin Mullinix and Tim Cichanowicz from the University of Kansas. 


Existing theories of public attitudes towards international trade do not adequately explain the shifting contours of American support for the US-China trade war that began in 2018. Although existing hypotheses regarding individual trade preferences—economic self- interest, sociotropism, partisanship, reciprocity, and xenophobia—all help to predict initial support for the trade war, these hypotheses do not adequately explain how citizen attitudes subsequently evolved in the context of  an  increasingly  adversarial  bilateral  US-China relationship. In particular, they do not address how rising security tensions affect trade preferences. Using nationally representative original survey data (n=1,016) and a non- representative survey with an embedded experiment (n=1,015), this paper argues that “securitization” of the bilateral economic relationship has spurred threat perceptions and given rise to a Cold War narrative that has in turn caused a substantial share of Americans to become less concerned with the economic outcomes of trade and more concerned about security effects. These Americans demonstrate an instinctive “commercial peace” response in which trade liberalization can serve as a potential deterrent to conflict. These results challenge conventional wisdom on political support for the trade war and add depth to existing theories of individual trade preferences regarding the interaction between economic, security, and psychological motivations.


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