Xinru Ma, PhD


A PDF of my CV is available here

Welcome! I am a research scholar at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) at Stanford University. Previously, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University (2019-2020), and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University (2018-2019). In 2023, I was selected as an International Strategy Forum fellow by Schmidt Futures, an initiative that recognizes the next generation of problem solvers with extraordinary potential in geopolitics, innovation, and public leadership. I obtained my Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California in 2019.

Originally from China, I use formal and computational methods to study nationalism, nationalist protests, and their impact on international disputes, with a regional focus on China and Southeast Asia. My research is informed by extensive field research in Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and mainland China, during which I interviewed protestors, think tanks, diplomats, government officials, and business owners impacted by nationalist protests. In addition to informing me of the complicated strategic interaction between mass mobilization, government repression, and foreign policy-making, the field research further motivated me to focus on the methodological challenges for causal inference that stem from strategic conflict behavior. 

More broadly, I am interested in online public opinion and new methods of measuring it, domestic politics of foreign policy formation, alliance politics, great power rivalry, and the historical relations of East Asia.  One core theme of my research is to advance local knowledge about East and Southeast Asia to challenge the Euro-centric assumptions regarding the region that are often asserted but not shown. I have a series of research, including paper-length journal articles and book projects, that use evidence from both contemporary and historical East Asian cases to provide new insights on IR scholarship. My forthcoming co-authored book examines over 1,500 years of dynastic transitions and internal rebellions in China, Vietnam, and Korea, and challenges the pervasive concerns about expansionist wars caused by power transition, a lens derived from an exclusive focus on European examples and analogies. 

I hold a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and Public Policy (USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, '16), a Master's degree in Public Diplomacy (USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, '13), and a B.A. in Journalism from Shanghai International Studies University.