A global game of diplomacy

Matt Malis, Alastair Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Diplomacy always occurs in the shadow of domestic political competition. We develop a model of top-level diplomatic exchange between an incumbent and a foreign leader, embedded within a global game of regime change, and examine four mechanisms that induce a relationship between diplomatic visits and regime survival. First, the foreign leader chooses to visit incumbents who are ex ante more secure in office (a selection effect). Second, because the foreign leader’s decision is based partly on private information, the citizens update on the revelation of that information (a learning effect) and are discouraged from mounting a challenge. Third, the foreign leader can bolster the incumbent’s strength in office with a transfer of material support (a strengthening effect). The latter two effects are then amplified by the complementarities in the citizens’ strategies (a multiplier effect). Contrary to standard global games results, we show that increased precision in the public information transmitted strategically by the foreign power induces a unique equilibrium, as citizens coordinate on the foreign leader’s action. Our findings explain why leaders are so eager to receive state visits from major world powers.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)480-506
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


    • Diplomacy
    • diplomatic visits
    • global game
    • leader survival
    • state visits

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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