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

Dear Human Readers,
You may have seen that Hong Kong’s National Security Law is now spilling over to university campuses in America. Fortunately or unfortunately, our machine learning programs have no filter, spitting out material that’s “sensitive and of concern to China’s government.” So, take that how you will.


China’s post-COVID agenda. The 2020 Q2 number of the PCI-China was released last month, which shows an uptick that indicates the Chinese government’s post-pandemic priorities. In a Tribune News Service piece, we demonstrate that China is not only refocusing on domestic issues—eliminating poverty, boosting the rural sector, etc.—but also showing an alarming emphasis on the military. Most recently, President Xi Jinping even brought China’s entire military reserves under his control. Figure 1, which didn’t make it to the op-ed, visualizes this unusual shift in agenda.

Figure 1.  China’s post-COVID policy priorities by topic

Note: The false omission rate for each topic measures the extent to which it is the focus of future policy. The topics where the red bar is much higher than the blue bar indicate those new priorities. See our research paper for more details.

Where might the cinema be, you ask? The South China Sea and the Sino-Indian border are both conflict-prone. But Taiwan could also be an important tension point, now that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is fast becoming the leader in manufacturing the world’s semiconductor chips—the crude oil of modern technologies. The fact that these are options on the table should concern anyone.


The outbreak project was launched! ICYMI, as they say, we launched the PCI-Outbreak last month. The chart below shows the word-based PCI-Outbreak, a measure for how severe COVID-19 really was in China, in comparison with China’s official statistics. The result suggests that, from March to June, the epidemic’s severity did not decline nearly as quickly as what the numbers let on.

Figure 2.  PCI-Outbreak and official COVID cases in China (Jan 21 to Jul 9)

Note: The PCI-Outbreak learns the change in language in China’s media coverage of the 2003 SARS outbreak and then assesses how serious-sounding the coverage of COVID-19 is.

PCI Resources

To learn more about the PCI. If you would like an overview of the PCI and its capabilities, Weifeng Zhong recently sat down with Daniel Runde of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a fun Building the Future podcast. In the next few weeks, the PCI will also be presented at the Data Science Conference on COVID-19 and the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting. Join us if you can!

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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