I am an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Richmond. I am also affiliated with the University of Virginia East Asia Center and serve as a board member of the Association of Chinese Political Studies. From 2021 to 2023, I was a Public Intellectuals Program (PIP) Fellow with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Previously, I was an assistant professor of political science and Asian studies at Elizabethtown College. From July to September 2018, I was a visiting fellow at the China Studies Centre, the University of Sydney.
My research approaches the durability of authoritarian rule from a grassroots perspective. Focusing on China, my research is motivated by the dynamics between local forces and central power, as observed in popular culture, public opinion, news media, and local governance. My work has been published in Asian Studies Review, Public Performance & Management Review, Critical Discourse Studies, Journal of Experimental Political Science, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Political Research Quarterly, The China Quarterly, Modern China, Journal of East Asian Studies, and Journal of Contemporary China.
My first book, Convenient Criticism: Local Media and Governance in Urban China, was published by SUNY Press in 2020. It answers the question of why and how critical reporting persists at the local level in China despite state media control, a hallmark of authoritarian rule. Synthesizing ethnographic observation, interviews, survey and content analysis data, Convenient Criticism reveals evolving dynamics in local governance and the state-media relationship. Local critical reporting, though limited in scope, occurs because local leaders, motivated by political career advancement, use media criticism strategically to increase bureaucratic control, address citizen grievances, and improve governance. This new approach to governance enables the shaping of public opinion while, at the same time, disciplining subordinate bureaucrats. In this way, the party-state not only monopolizes propaganda but also expropriates criticism, which expands the notion of media control from the suppression of journalism to its manipulation. One positive consequence of these practices has been to invigorate television journalists' unique brand of advocacy journalism.
I earned my PhD in Political Science from the University of Kansas, MA in Political Science from Marquette University, and BA in International Politics from the University of International Relations in Beijing.
Contact me at dchen *at* richmond.edu.
You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and ResearchGate.