Xinru Ma, PhD


A PDF of my CV is available here.

Welcome! I obtained my Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California in August 2019. 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).

Originally from China, I study nationalism, nationalist protests, and their impact on territorial disputes, with a regional focus on East and Southeast Asia. With game-theoretical models and computational text analysis of social media data, I examine the formation and diffusion of nationalism both online and offline and collect original datasets including nationalist protests and behaviors of states and substate actors in the South China Sea via applying natural language processing methods to large-scale media text.

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 that were 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.

My interest in East Asia as a region is much broader than just nationalism. One core theme of my research is to advance local knowledge about China and East 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 uses evidence from both contemporary and historical East Asian cases to provide new insights on IR scholarship. For instance, my co-authored book project examines over 1,500 years of dynastic transitions and internal rebellions in China, Vietnam, and Korea, and challenges the pervasive concerns on expansionist wars caused by power transition, a lens derived from an exclusive focus on European examples and analogies. 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.

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.