Maël van Beek

Maël van Beek

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Princeton University

Hi, call me Alan.

I am a postdoctoral research associate at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. In my research, I investigate how variations in the distribution of public preferences influence international bargaining in the context of polarization and great power competition between the United States, China, and Russia. To do so, I use mixed methods with a focus on bringing together two methodological traditions sometimes juxtaposed but seldom integrated: survey experiments and formal (game theoretic and computational) modeling. My research is forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science.

I received my PhD in Political Science (International Relations and Political Methodology) from The Ohio State University where I was a founding member (now, an external affiliate) of Bear F. Braumoeller’s Models of Emergent Social Order (MESO) Lab. My research there was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

I previously held a fellowship with the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and I am also a co-founder of the Korea and the World Podcast.

I can be reached via email at


  • International crisis bargaining
  • Public opinion and polarization
  • Hegemonic order competition between great powers
  • Survey experiments
  • Formal and computational modeling


  • Ph.D. in Political Science, 2023

    The Ohio State University

  • M.I.S. in International Cooperation, 2015

    Seoul National University

  • B.A. in Anthropology, 2012

    The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Book Project

Publics with double-peaked (polarized) preferences produce different strategic environments for leaders than single-peaked (non-polarized) publics.

How do preferences impact the foreign policy decision-making process of leaders? We know that leaders are sensitive to public preferences, whether domestic or international and account for them when evaluating alternative foreign policies. More attention, however, must be devoted to understanding the strategic incentives these preferences produce for leaders. In this book project, I take individual preferences seriously and investigate how they aggregate into overall public opinions that influence leaders’ foreign policy. To do so, I develop a unified model of public preferences focused on the strategic incentives different distributions of preferences create for leaders at home and abroad.

An important feature of this project is its ability to contribute directly to our understanding of a timely issue: domestic polarization—the clustering of members of the public into separate groups with divergent preferences. Regarding domestic politics, the consensus is that polarization harms the policy process and hinders leaders from conducting foreign policy, for example, by fostering extreme policy swings or gridlock. The burgeoning scholarship on polarization and foreign policy agrees. Yet, polarization implies a double-peaked distribution of public preferences that our current strategic models cannot account for. Once this distribution is accounted for, this project reveals that the literature’s pessimism may be unwarranted in foreign policy. Indeed, I find that democracies’ foreign policy is robust to polarization: not only does polarization need not hinder foreign policy prospects, but, at times, it can even improve leaders’ bargaining position. The intuition behind this implication is that, in the two-level game of international bargaining, polarized public leaders can leverage their public’s preferences to obtain concessions from foreign partners.


Forthcoming papers

Hierarchy and War

Forthcoming at AJPS, with Professor Bear Braumoeller and the MESO Lab.

Simulated states (shown as circles and stars) joining hierarchies (red, green, or blue), bargaining, and waging war.

Scholars have written extensively about hierarchical international order, on the one hand, and war on the other, but surprisingly little work systematically explores the connection between the two. This disconnect is all the more striking given that empirical studies have found a strong relationship between the two. We provide a generative computational network model that explains hierarchy and war as two elements of a larger recursive process: The threat of war drives the formation of hierarchy, which in turn shapes states’ incentives for war. Grounded in canonical theories of hierarchy and war, the model explains an array of known regularities about hierarchical order and conflict. Surprisingly, we also find that many traditional results of the IR literature—including institutional persistence, balancing behavior, and systemic self-regulation—emerge from the interplay between hierarchy and war.


Working papers

A Preferences-based Theory of Audience Costs

Under review.

Audience costs are central to our understanding of international politics. In recent years, however, audience costs have come under attack repeatedly. I offer a new theory of audience costs grounded in the substantive preferences of individuals that 1) subsumes traditional audience costs theory, 2) can account for more variation than existing theories, 3) produces counterintuitive implications, and 4) remains parsimonious. I introduce this theory using a deliberately simple formal model. Then, I show that members of the public and leaders behave as this theory predicts using original survey experiments and a case study of the 1895 Anglo-American Venezuela Crisis. Finally, I test a direct implication in the context of the democratic credibility literature. This preferences-based theory of audience costs consolidates and refines multiple theoretical arguments about the role of public opinion in international crisis bargaining and emphasizes the importance of the distribution of public preferences for leaders’ decision-making process.

The Trilemma of Hegemonic Order Competition

Under review.

Existing theories predict that, as China rises, it will want to reshape the rules-based international order led by the United States. Current debates center on three questions: Will the United States preserve its influence over the international order? Will the future order promote American interests? Finally, will change be peaceful? Unfortunately, scholars largely address only one or two of these questions at a time. The problem is that their answers are logically connected in what, I argue, constitutes the trilemma of order competition. Broadly stated, when powerful states compete over international orders, they are confronted with three desirable, yet jointly unattainable, objectives: 1) to maximize their influence over other states while minimizing the cost of order maintenance; 2) to promote an order that advances a set of interests aligned with their own interests; and 3) to avoid war. The central takeaway is that only two out of these three objectives can be mutually consistent and order-makers must decide which one to give up. I develop a formal model that highlights the strategic nature of order management: powerful states benefit from having states participate in their order, but the more dissimilar members’ preferences are from the order’s purpose, the costlier it is for powerful states to ensure that member states comply with their obligations. Two case studies—the 1895 Venezuela Crisis and the recent 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine—illustrate this trilemma. Counterintuitively, the model implies that the more different the set of interests each order-maker advances, the less likely conflict becomes. I conclude by discussing the practical implications of the trilemma for American foreign policy.

Dynamics of Change in International Organizations

Under review, with Daniel Verdier and Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni.

States face several options when intent on changing an IO: they can reform it or create a successor that assumes all or part of the prior institution’s functions–a practice known as succession. Reform and succession are equally efficient mechanisms of institutional change, yet addressing different negotiating hurdles. While succession allows reformers to sidestep veto players, on whom reform trips, unlike reform, succession suffers from scale suboptimality–not every existing member may join the successor institution. Contingent on which negotiation obstacle prevails, reform is preferred to succession or vice versa. We provide a game-theoretic foundation to this proposition, advance a computational solution, and illustrate with historical examples.

Only Doves Could Send Nixon to China

Working paper.

When do leaders pursue rapprochement? A counterintuitive answer is that “only Nixon could go to China”—that Nixon’s reputation as a foreign policy hawk allowed him to pursue a conciliatory policy with China that the U.S. public would not have tolerated from a more dovish president. This hawkish advantage thesis has been premised on the basis that hawks may appear more moderate and are better able to convey the desirability of conciliation than doves. Scant attention, however, has been devoted to the individual preferences we know voters have regarding foreign policy. Yet, if we are to understand the domestic conditions that favor rapprochement, it is crucial to bring voters back to the fore of our theory. I field an original survey experiment to answer whether hawks always enjoy an advantage when pursuing peace. Experimental results suggest three main points. First, conciliation (belligerence) is most likely when voters are pacific (militant). Second, hawkish advantage dynamics only manifest when voters are militant, but these results imply the existence of an even clear dovish advantage. Indeed, voters reward the belligerence of doves considerably more than that of hawks. However, I do not find any evidence of a hawkish advantage at conciliation when the public is pacific. Finally, I find that preferences also shape how voters perceive leader moderation and policy quality. Overall, these results emphasize the importance of the public’s type for conciliation and suggest important implications for future Sino-American relations.


Ongoing projects

The Power to Hurt and Public Support for War (with Gregory L. Smith)

Alliance Management in the Face of Public Opinion: Experimental Evidence from the United States, Japan, and South Korea

Measuring Uncertainty in the International System (with Maryum Alam and Bear Braumoeller)

Estimating Latent Variables through Simulation

strategizeR: An R Package for Simulating and Analyzing International Bargaining

What Is International Order and How Should We Measure It? Quantifying an Elusive Concept (with Bear Braumoeller and the MESO Lab)

Warring Leviathans: Conflict Among Hierarchies and the Evolution of Human Prosociality (with Bear Braumoeller and the MESO Lab)


2020-2021 Outstanding Graduate Associate Teaching Award Reception

I have been the instructor of record for two different courses at Ohio State: an introductory course on international politics (Global Politics) and an advanced course on the causes of war (International Security and the Causes of War). In the future, I would like to teach new courses on public opinion and the design of survey experiments; international orders; as well as formal and computational modeling.

My teaching emphasizes non-traditional interactive learning (especially simulations and collaborative readings) to transmit the knowledge accumulated by political scientists and ground it in the context of contemporary politics.

My teaching efforts were recognized by the students of Ohio State who selected me to receive the 2020-2021 Outstanding Graduate Associate Teaching Award, the only university-wide teaching award completely administered by students.

Introduction to Global Politics (PS 1300)


This course introduces students to the study of global politics through the lens of International Relations (IR), a sub-discipline of Political Science. As an academic field, IR focuses on the interactions of political actors across nations. In addition to politics, we draw from various field of human knowledge – i.a. economics, psychology, game theory – to answer the important questions that drive world events: What are the causes of war? How do domestic interest groups influence foreign policy? Do democracies behave differently than authoritarian regimes? Why do states seek nuclear weapons? What can be done to prevent their success? Can democracy yield peace? Is the rise of China a threat? Should we fear a nuclear North Korea? Do norms matter and if so, how? What is the role of gender in international politics?

International Security and the Causes of War (PS 4315)


In this course, students learn to read and evaluate the social science literature on the causes of international peace and war. It focuses on both theoretical and empirical works in this area, and introduces a wide variety of research strategies. After reviewing many of the prominent theories of war and peace, students will be encouraged to evaluate their validity and limitations in light of several historical case studies.