Exploring the Country Co-occurrence Network in the Twittersphere at an International Economic Event

Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 774)


This paper explores how international relations are represented on social media in the context of an international economic event, specifically the “Belt and Road Initiative” proposed by the government of mainland China. The present study focuses on the country co-occurrence network represented in the Twittersphere, such that a link is established between two countries if they appear in the same tweet. The study also investigates how the formation of such a network can be explained by geographical, political, and economic factors. An application programming interface (API) harvested all relevant public tweets (n = 26,515) in a one-month time span (2 June–28 June 2017). The names of the countries or regions were extracted to establish the network, with 52 nodes (countries or regions) and 86 edges. Social network analysis revealed that mainland China, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Greece, Kenya, and Iran were in the network’s important positions, as indicated by their high betweenness centrality. Exponential random graph modeling (ERGM) results suggested that West Asian countries engaging heavily in international polities, countries with lower levels of press freedom, and those receiving less direct investment from mainland China, were more likely to be tweeted together.


Social network analysis Twittersphere International relations Text mining Country co-occurrence network Exponential random graph models 



The study was partly funded by the Start-up Grant for New Academics (no. RC-1617-1-A2) by Hong Kong Baptist University. The author would like to thank Professor David John Frank for generously sharing the data of international NGOs, together with Dr. Li Chen (the Department of Computer Science at Hong Kong Baptist University), Dr. Lun Zhang (Beijing Normal University), Ms. Mengyi Zhang (Hong Kong Baptist University), and the three anonymous reviewers of the 2017 National Conference of Social Media Processing.


  1. 1.
    Gans, H.J.: Deciding What’s News: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek, and Time. Northwestern University Press, Evanston (1979) Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Golan, G.J.: Where in the world is Africa? Predicting coverage of Africa by US television networks. Int. Commun. Gazette 70(1), 41–57 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Zhu, J.H.: Between the prescriptive and descriptive roles: a comparison of international trade news in China and Taiwan. Asian J. Commun. 2(1), 31–50 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Zhu, Q.: Citizen-driven international networks and globalization of social movements on Twitter. Soc. Sci. Comput. Rev. (2015). doi: 10.1177/0894439315617263
  5. 5.
    Wang, C.J., Wang, P.P., Zhu, J.J.: Discussing occupy wall street on Twitter: longitudinal network analysis of equality, emotion, and stability of public discussion. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. Networking 16(9), 679–685 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Qin, J.: Hero on Twitter, traitor on news: how social media and legacy news frame Snowden. Int. J. Press/Polit. 20(2), 166–184 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Duncombe, C.: Twitter and transformative diplomacy: social media and Iran–US relations. Int. Aff. 93(3), 545–562 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Chang, T.K., Lau, T.Y., Hao, X.: From the United States with news and more: international flow, television coverage and the world system. Gazette (Leiden, Netherlands) 62(6), 505–522 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Chang, T.K., Shoemaker, P.J., Brendlinger, N.: Determinants of international news coverage in the US media. Commun. Res. 14(4), 396–414 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Wu, H.D.: Systemic determinants of international news coverage: a comparison of 38 countries. J. Commun. 50(2), 110–130 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Barnett, G.A., Xu, W.W., Chu, J., Jiang, K., Huh, C., Park, J.Y., Park, H.W.: Measuring international relations in social media conversations. Gov. Inf. Q. 34(1), 37–44 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sluban, B., Grčar, M., Mozetič, I.: Temporal multi-layer network construction from major news events. In: Cherifi, H., Gonçalves, B., Menezes, R., Sinatra, R. (eds.) Complex Networks VII. SCI, vol. 644, pp. 29–41. Springer, Cham (2016). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-30569-1_3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Popović, M., Štefančić, H., Sluban, B., Novak, P.K., Grčar, M., Mozetič, I., Puliga, M., Zlatić, V.: Extraction of temporal networks from term co-occurrences in online textual sources. PloS One 9(12), e99515 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Castells, M.: The new public sphere: global civil society, communication networks, and global governance. Ann. AAPSS 616, 77–93 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Holton, A.E., Baek, K., Coddington, M., Yaschur, C.: Seeking and sharing: motivations for linking on Twitter. Commun. Res. Rep. 31(1), 33–40 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Marchetti, R., Ceccobelli, D.: Twitter and television in a hybrid media system: the 2013 Italian election campaign. Journalism Pract. 10(5), 626–644 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zhang, X.: Visualization, technologies, or the public? Exploring the articulation of data-driven journalism in the Twittersphere. Digit. Journalism (2017). doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1340094
  18. 18.
    McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., Cook, J.M.: Birds of a feather: homophily in social networks. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 27, 415–444 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kandel, D.B.: Homophily, selection, and socialization in adolescent friendships. Am. J. Sociol. 84(2), 427–436 (1978). Homophily in interpersonalCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Eklund, L., Roman, S.: Do adolescent gamers make friends offline? Identity and friendship formation in school. Comput. Hum. Behav. 73, 284–289 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Maoz, Z.: Preferential attachment, homophily, and the structure of international networks, 1816–2003. Conflict Manag. Peace Sci. 29(3), 341–369 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Johnson, J.D., Tims, A.R.: Communication factors related to closer international ties. Hum. Commun. Res. 12(2), 259–273 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Sheafer, T., Shenhav, S.R., Takens, J., van Atteveldt, W.: Relative political and value proximity in mediated public diplomacy: the effect of state-level homophily on international frame building. Polit. Commun. 31(1), 149–167 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Barnett, G.A., Benefield, G.A.: Predicting international Facebook ties through cultural homophily and other factors. New Media Soc. 19(2), 217–239 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Hoff, P.D., Ward, M.D.: Modeling dependencies in international relations networks. Polit. Anal. 12(2), 160–175 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Louch, H.: Personal network integration: transitivity and homophily in strong-tie relations. Soc. Networks 22(1), 45–64 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Wasserman, S., Faust, K.: Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications, vol. 8. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1994)CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Maoz, Z., Terris, L.G., Kuperman, R.D., Talmud, I.: What is the enemy of my enemy? Causes and consequences of imbalanced international relations, 1816–2001. J. Polit. 69(1), 100–115 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Freedom House Index Report.
  30. 30.
    Meyer, J.W., Boli, J., Thomas, G.M., Ramirez, F.O.: World society and the nation-state. Am. J. Sociol. 103(1), 144–181 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Givens, J.E., Jorgenson, A.K.: Individual environmental concern in the world polity: a multilevel analysis. Soc. Sci. Res. 42(2), 418–431 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    The China Global Investment Tracker.
  33. 33.
    Goodreau, S.M., Handcock, M.S., Hunter, D.R., Butts, C.T., Morris, M.: A statnet tutorial. J. Stat. Softw. 24(9), 1 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of JournalismHong Kong Baptist UniversityKowloon TongHong Kong SAR

Personalised recommendations