Monthly updates from the Policy Change Index projects.
Mercatus Center at George Mason University This Week

Dear Human Readers,

As you emerge from the Covid lockdowns, so do the Hong Kong protesters. In response to this development, our machine learning program, the PCI-Crackdown, resumes tracking the tension in Hong Kong every day. Watch this space for future updates.


National security for all. During the closely watched National People’s Congress meeting last week, China unveiled a plan to impose a national security law in Hong Kong that would punish subversion, foreign interference, terrorism, you name it. So, Hong Kongers took to the streets, again—duh! Below is what the PCI-Crackdown has to say. Notice that China’s state media had been building up the propaganda a month before the plan was announced.

Figure 1: PCI-Crackdown for 2020 Hong Kong protests (April 16 to May 27)

Note: The PCI-Crackdown tries to learn the buildup of China’s negative propaganda against Tiananmen protesters and then cast Hong Kong protests-related articles on the Tiananmen timeline, giving an estimate of how close in time Hong Kong is to when tanks rolled over Beijing.

It will soon have been a year since protests broke out in Hong Kong against the Beijing-backed extradition bill. The PCI-Crackdown was tracking last year’s developments until the tension dissipated due to the US-China phase one deal and the onset of the pandemic. Below is the chart from last year for comparison.

Figure 2: PCI-Crackdown for 2019 Hong Kong protests

What’s Next

Coming soon: PCI-Outbreak. As mentioned in the previous letter, the new PCI-Outbreak project on China’s Covid numbers is under development. But if you would like a sneak peek, Zhong discussed the idea behind it in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s podcast, Across the States.

For an overview of the PCI project series, Chan and Zhong’s recent paper, “The ‘Value’ of Propaganda: Machine Predictions of Rare Events Based on Text Data,” will appear as the lead article in the forthcoming issue of the Yale Journal of International Affairs later this week.

PCI Resources

The open-sourced PCI projects are meant to crack a window to otherwise opaque political systems, so everyone can look inside—for free. You can find out more about the projects on the PCI website. Don’t hesitate to reach out!


Edited by Weifeng Zhong and Julian TszKin Chan


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