Headshot of Zenobia Chan

I am a PhD candidate at the Department of Politics at Princeton University and a USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). I study the international and domestic politics of economic statecraft. My research interests lie at the intersection of international political economy, security studies, and computational social science.

My dissertation book project investigates how positive economic statecraft––such as foreign aid, loans, investment, sales of natural resources––work in influencing preferences and behavior of elites and the public abroad. Drawing on insights from behavioral economics, political psychology, and the domestic politics of foreign policy, I propose a unifying framework to explain the effectiveness of various types of positive economic statecraft based on their cost contingency and time horizon. I combine archival materials, elite interviews, experimental data, and large-N statistical analysis to test my theory in the cases of Chinese infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s energy diplomacy in the twenty-first century.

In other research projects, I examine the effects of Chinese and Russian information operations on voter polarization abroad. I also develop machine learning techniques for discovering heterogeneous treatment effects and automated systems for N-of-one randomized control trials. My work has been published or is forthcoming in the Review of International Organizations and other outlets.

My research has been supported by the Minerva Research Initiative, Facebook, Inc., the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva, and several research centers at Princeton University. My work received the 2020 Timothy E. Cook Best Graduate Student Paper in Political Communication Honorable Mention from the American Political Science Association. I was awarded the Prize Fellowship in Social Sciences in the 2020–21 academic year.

Much of my research is inspired by my background in international affairs, public policy, and software engineering. Prior to my doctoral studies, I was an analyst and geo-data engineer at Google, Inc. I have also served analyst and consultant positions at the United Nations, OECD, and World Bank on issues related to development assistance, energy policy, and infrastructure financing.

I hold a Master of International Affairs in International Security Policy from Columbia University, an MA summa cum laude in International Economic Policy from Sciences Po Paris, where I was an Alexandre Yersin Scholar of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and a BBA (1st Hon) in International Business and Global Management from the University of Hong Kong.