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Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail , and: Popular Protest in China (review)

Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail , and: Popular Protest in... 100 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 widelyregardedbylocalwomenasahighlydangerouspractice(pp.355­356). Meanwhile,midwives,eventhosesuchasLiuXihanwhohadobtainedscientific medicaltrainingfromstate-initiatedretrainingprograms(pp.349­351),were considereduncleanbylocalvillagers.Theywerebelievedtobevulnerabletoa deadlypollutioncausedbytheunavoidablecontactswith"dirty"bloodinthebirth deliveryprocess(p.356).LiuXihan'sstory,asHershatterconcludes,demonstrated thatinlocalruralsociety,the"statetemporalitycoexisted[with],perhapseven defineditselfagainst,othertemporalitiesthatdidnotdis ppearwiththeadventof a anewstateregime"(p.358).Fromtheselocalwomenandmidwives'perspective, althoughtherewasnototalitarianCommunistrevolutioninChina,therewere deep-rooted,asthetitleofthisbooksuggests,dilemmasinthenewsocietyestablishedbytheCommunists. YaminXu Yamin Xu teaches history at Le Moyne College in Central New York. YongshunCai.Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail.StudiesoftheWalterH.ShorensteinAsia-PacificResearchCenter. Stanford,CA:StanfordUniversityPress,2010.xiv,284pp.Hardcover$65.00, isbn978-0-8047-6339-4.Paperback$22.95,isbn978-0-8047-6340-0. KevinJ.O'Brien,editor.Popular Protest in China. HarvardContemporary ChinaSeries15.Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversityPress,2008.x, 277 pp.Hardcover$57.00,isbn978-0-674-03060-2.Paperback$26.00, isbn 978-0-674-03061-9. Recentdecadeshavewitnessedadramaticincreaseindocumentedincidentsof collectiveactioninChina.Scholarshiponmodesofresistanceincontemporary Chinahaslikewiseburgeoned.IntheprologuetoPopular Protest in China,Sidney Tarrowwrites,"Adiverseandchangingsocietyisproducingarichandcomplex panoplyofstudiesofcontentiouspolitics"(O'Brien,p.4).Bothofthebooks discussedhererepresentfineexamplesofthisscholarship.Popular Protest in China isnotableinthatthecontributorsemploythe"politicalprocessmodel"incrafting theirresearch.Theessaysinthisvolumepointtotheutilityofapplying comparativeconceptstotheChinesecaseaswellassuggestwaysinwhichthe Chineseexamplecancontributetothebroaderacademicdiscourseonsocial © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press Reviews 101 movements.YongshunCai'sCollective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Failissignificantasaworkthatfocusesontherelationshipbetween popularprotestandpolicychange,amajorlacunainthescholarshiptodate. EquallywelcomeisthebreadthofCai'sinquiry:Thecasesexploredinhisbook crosstherural-urbandivideandcoveravarietyofissuesimportanttoChinese citizenstoday,rangingfromlaborproteststoenvironmentalconcernstoofficial corruption.Takentogether,thetwotextsnotonlyilluminatetheprocessesof protestincontemporaryChinabutalsopresenttheChinesecaseasanillustrative exampleofcontentiouspoliticsinanondemocraticregime. Intheparagraphsthatfollow,Iwilldiscussthebooksinturn.Drawingon KevinO'BrienandRachelStern'sintroductioninPopular Protest in China,Ihave chosentoorganizemydiscussionofthattextthematically.O'BrienandStern detailthreetheoreticalconceptsfromthecontentiouspoliticsliteraturethathave beenhighlightedbytheauthorsinthisvolume:politicalopportunitystructures, framing,andmobilizingstructures.Ihavereproducedthesetermsinamore generalsense,choosingtoexaminetheindividualarticleswithrespectto understandingtheconditionsunderwhichprotestispossible,thewaysinwhich dissentisarticulated,andthemethodsbywhichcollectiveactionisachieved.The subsequentdiscussionofCollective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Failismorestraightforward,followingtheprogressionofCai's methodologicalarguments.Asshouldbeevidentfromthefollowing,theseworks complementeachotherinseveralways,sharingcommonapproachesand corroboratingcommonfindings.Takentogether,thebookspresentanuancedand variegatedpictureofthedistinctiveattributesdefiningprotestincontemporary China. Locating Dissent WhenandhowarepopularprotestspossibleinilliberalstatessuchasthePeople's RepublicofChina(PRC)?InhisarticleinPopular Protest in Chinaaswellasinhis book,YongshunCaiemphasizesthatthesuccessofcollectiveresistanceisalways highlyconditional.Protestersmustcarefullyevaluatepoliticalopportunity structuresinbothframingandtimingtheirdissent.Inhisarticle,"Disruptive CollectiveActionintheReformEra,"Caiexaminesthecircumstancesthat distinguishsuccessfulcasesofdisruptiveprotest.Notingthatcitizens'protest movementsarefrequentlydirectedagainstlocalauthorities,Caiarguesthat effectiveaction"islikelytodrawattentionfromthecentralgovernmentorother upper-levelauthorities"(O'Brien,p.168).Interventionorthethreatofintervention fromhigherauthoritiesisoftensufficienttoimpelthelocalgovernmenttoaddress theprotesters'demands.Caiidentifiesconditionsthatincreasethelikelihoodof intervention:aprotestthatinvolvescasualtiesandgarnerssignificantmedia exposureis"highlylikely"togainnotice(O'Brien,p.169).Likewise,large-scale movements,inparticularthosethatdemonstratethepotentialtodisruptlocal 102 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 ordersignificantly,enjoygreaterchancesofsuccess.Caicitesthecaseofacitywidetaxistrikein2004thatcompletelyparalyzedthetrafficofYinchuanin Ningxiaprovince.Large-scaleactionresultedinupper-levelpressuresonthelocal government,contributingtoafavorableoutcomefortheprotesters(O'Brien, pp. 173­174). Caipresentspoliticalopportunityasaproductofthe"central-localdivide" (O'Brien,p.178).In"CollectivePetitioningandInstitutionalConversion,"XiChen showsthatChinesecitizenshaveexploitedtheopportunitiescreatedbythe evolutionofgovernmentstructuresinrecentdecades.Heappliestheconceptof institutionalconversion,"theprocessinwhichinstitutionswithonesetofgoalsin mindareredirectedtootherends,"inassessingprotesters'appropriationofthe petitionsystem(O'Brien,p.55).Inseekingtodistinguishorgainleveragefortheir claims,protestersfrequentlypetitioncollectively;theseactionsofteninvolve disruptivetactics.Althoughdisruptivecollectiveactionmayberepressed,theuse ofthepetitionformatsheltersprotesters.Thus,Chennotes,"itisastriking institutionalconversionthatthexinfang[lettersandvisits]systemhasstartedto encouragecollectivepetitioning"(O'Brien,p.64).Chenexplainsthatincreased bureaucraticdifferentiationinrecentyearsandchangesinthestructureofstatecitizenrelationships(i.e.,thedeclineoftheworkunit)havecreatedcircumstances thatpromotetheuseofcollectivepetitions.Ontheonehand,protestersrecognize thattheywillneedtouseextraordinarymeanstodrawattentiontotheir complaints,giventhe"lowefficiency"ofthecurrentpetitionsystem.Ontheother hand,thepetitionsystemremainsausefulvehicleforcommunicatingabusesof powerinthelowerechelonsofgovernment,andthestatecontinuestosupportthe xinfang bureaus.Protesters,therefore,continuetoemploycollectivepetitions,even inthefaceofrecentregulationsseekingtolimitthedisruptivepotentialofthese actions(O'Brien,pp.68­69). Whilestudiesofpoliticalopportunitystructuresoftenfocusonthefeasibility ofprotestgivencertainconditions,TeresaWrightshowsthattheconceptof politicalopportunitymaybeappliedtodifferentquestions.Inherarticle"Student MovementsinChinaandTaiwan,"Wrightassessesthesalienceofpolitical opportunitystructuresintermsoftheirinfluenceontheformandtacticsof protestmovements,inthiscasetheinfluenceofstatestructuresandpolitical cultureonstudentorganizationandmobilizationstrategies.Adoptinga comparativeapproach,Wrightidentifies"elementsofopportunity"relevantto studentmovementsinChinain1989andTaiwanin1990:thesingle-partystate, officialcontroloverthedisseminationofinformationandtheformationofsocial organizations,andthetendencytorepressdissentviolently(O'Brien,p.27).She arguesthatthefearanddistrustgeneratedbythesestructureshamperedeffective organizationwithinstudentgroupsandlimited"cross-sector"mobilization (O'Brien,p.28).Alackoftrustcontributedtofactionalismandradicalism;afear ofrepressionledstudentstolimittheirmembershipandadditionallyservedto Reviews 103 validatetheradicalpositionsadoptedbyselectgroups(O'Brien,pp.46,51).Wright emphasizesthatthesecorrelationsarenotstaticprescriptions(O'Brien,p.37). Rather,studenttacticsadaptedtochangingcircumstances.IfthecaseofChinain 1989demonstratedtherelationshipbetweenincreasingrepressionandincreasing radicalization,thecaseofTaiwanin1990presentedanalternateoutcomewhere conciliationonthepartofthestateengenderedatrendtowardmoderationamong thestudentsaswell.Thisdifferencenotwithstanding,studentsinbothChinaand Taiwanpursued"narrowmobilizationstrategies"inthefaceofstatecontrols (O'Brien,p.52).InWright'swords,"this[finding]suggeststhatprotestersin illiberalcontextsfaceaconundrum:narrowmobilizationthatistheultimate outcomeofstaterepressionmaybeinsufficienttopropelrealchange,yet mobilizationthatincludesgroupswhichtheregimefindsthreateningislikelyto provokerepression"(O'Brien,p.53). http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail , and: Popular Protest in China (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (1) – Mar 1, 2010

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Abstract

100 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 widelyregardedbylocalwomenasahighlydangerouspractice(pp.355­356). Meanwhile,midwives,eventhosesuchasLiuXihanwhohadobtainedscientific medicaltrainingfromstate-initiatedretrainingprograms(pp.349­351),were considereduncleanbylocalvillagers.Theywerebelievedtobevulnerabletoa deadlypollutioncausedbytheunavoidablecontactswith"dirty"bloodinthebirth deliveryprocess(p.356).LiuXihan'sstory,asHershatterconcludes,demonstrated thatinlocalruralsociety,the"statetemporalitycoexisted[with],perhapseven defineditselfagainst,othertemporalitiesthatdidnotdis ppearwiththeadventof a anewstateregime"(p.358).Fromtheselocalwomenandmidwives'perspective, althoughtherewasnototalitarianCommunistrevolutioninChina,therewere deep-rooted,asthetitleofthisbooksuggests,dilemmasinthenewsocietyestablishedbytheCommunists. YaminXu Yamin Xu teaches history at Le Moyne College in Central New York. YongshunCai.Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail.StudiesoftheWalterH.ShorensteinAsia-PacificResearchCenter. Stanford,CA:StanfordUniversityPress,2010.xiv,284pp.Hardcover$65.00, isbn978-0-8047-6339-4.Paperback$22.95,isbn978-0-8047-6340-0. KevinJ.O'Brien,editor.Popular Protest in China. HarvardContemporary ChinaSeries15.Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversityPress,2008.x, 277 pp.Hardcover$57.00,isbn978-0-674-03060-2.Paperback$26.00, isbn 978-0-674-03061-9. Recentdecadeshavewitnessedadramaticincreaseindocumentedincidentsof collectiveactioninChina.Scholarshiponmodesofresistanceincontemporary Chinahaslikewiseburgeoned.IntheprologuetoPopular Protest in China,Sidney Tarrowwrites,"Adiverseandchangingsocietyisproducingarichandcomplex panoplyofstudiesofcontentiouspolitics"(O'Brien,p.4).Bothofthebooks discussedhererepresentfineexamplesofthisscholarship.Popular Protest in China isnotableinthatthecontributorsemploythe"politicalprocessmodel"incrafting theirresearch.Theessaysinthisvolumepointtotheutilityofapplying comparativeconceptstotheChinesecaseaswellassuggestwaysinwhichthe Chineseexamplecancontributetothebroaderacademicdiscourseonsocial © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press Reviews 101 movements.YongshunCai'sCollective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Failissignificantasaworkthatfocusesontherelationshipbetween popularprotestandpolicychange,amajorlacunainthescholarshiptodate. EquallywelcomeisthebreadthofCai'sinquiry:Thecasesexploredinhisbook crosstherural-urbandivideandcoveravarietyofissuesimportanttoChinese citizenstoday,rangingfromlaborproteststoenvironmentalconcernstoofficial corruption.Takentogether,thetwotextsnotonlyilluminatetheprocessesof protestincontemporaryChinabutalsopresenttheChinesecaseasanillustrative exampleofcontentiouspoliticsinanondemocraticregime. Intheparagraphsthatfollow,Iwilldiscussthebooksinturn.Drawingon KevinO'BrienandRachelStern'sintroductioninPopular Protest in China,Ihave chosentoorganizemydiscussionofthattextthematically.O'BrienandStern detailthreetheoreticalconceptsfromthecontentiouspoliticsliteraturethathave beenhighlightedbytheauthorsinthisvolume:politicalopportunitystructures, framing,andmobilizingstructures.Ihavereproducedthesetermsinamore generalsense,choosingtoexaminetheindividualarticleswithrespectto understandingtheconditionsunderwhichprotestispossible,thewaysinwhich dissentisarticulated,andthemethodsbywhichcollectiveactionisachieved.The subsequentdiscussionofCollective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Failismorestraightforward,followingtheprogressionofCai's methodologicalarguments.Asshouldbeevidentfromthefollowing,theseworks complementeachotherinseveralways,sharingcommonapproachesand corroboratingcommonfindings.Takentogether,thebookspresentanuancedand variegatedpictureofthedistinctiveattributesdefiningprotestincontemporary China. Locating Dissent WhenandhowarepopularprotestspossibleinilliberalstatessuchasthePeople's RepublicofChina(PRC)?InhisarticleinPopular Protest in Chinaaswellasinhis book,YongshunCaiemphasizesthatthesuccessofcollectiveresistanceisalways highlyconditional.Protestersmustcarefullyevaluatepoliticalopportunity structuresinbothframingandtimingtheirdissent.Inhisarticle,"Disruptive CollectiveActionintheReformEra,"Caiexaminesthecircumstancesthat distinguishsuccessfulcasesofdisruptiveprotest.Notingthatcitizens'protest movementsarefrequentlydirectedagainstlocalauthorities,Caiarguesthat effectiveaction"islikelytodrawattentionfromthecentralgovernmentorother upper-levelauthorities"(O'Brien,p.168).Interventionorthethreatofintervention fromhigherauthoritiesisoftensufficienttoimpelthelocalgovernmenttoaddress theprotesters'demands.Caiidentifiesconditionsthatincreasethelikelihoodof intervention:aprotestthatinvolvescasualtiesandgarnerssignificantmedia exposureis"highlylikely"togainnotice(O'Brien,p.169).Likewise,large-scale movements,inparticularthosethatdemonstratethepotentialtodisruptlocal 102 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 ordersignificantly,enjoygreaterchancesofsuccess.Caicitesthecaseofacitywidetaxistrikein2004thatcompletelyparalyzedthetrafficofYinchuanin Ningxiaprovince.Large-scaleactionresultedinupper-levelpressuresonthelocal government,contributingtoafavorableoutcomefortheprotesters(O'Brien, pp. 173­174). Caipresentspoliticalopportunityasaproductofthe"central-localdivide" (O'Brien,p.178).In"CollectivePetitioningandInstitutionalConversion,"XiChen showsthatChinesecitizenshaveexploitedtheopportunitiescreatedbythe evolutionofgovernmentstructuresinrecentdecades.Heappliestheconceptof institutionalconversion,"theprocessinwhichinstitutionswithonesetofgoalsin mindareredirectedtootherends,"inassessingprotesters'appropriationofthe petitionsystem(O'Brien,p.55).Inseekingtodistinguishorgainleveragefortheir claims,protestersfrequentlypetitioncollectively;theseactionsofteninvolve disruptivetactics.Althoughdisruptivecollectiveactionmayberepressed,theuse ofthepetitionformatsheltersprotesters.Thus,Chennotes,"itisastriking institutionalconversionthatthexinfang[lettersandvisits]systemhasstartedto encouragecollectivepetitioning"(O'Brien,p.64).Chenexplainsthatincreased bureaucraticdifferentiationinrecentyearsandchangesinthestructureofstatecitizenrelationships(i.e.,thedeclineoftheworkunit)havecreatedcircumstances thatpromotetheuseofcollectivepetitions.Ontheonehand,protestersrecognize thattheywillneedtouseextraordinarymeanstodrawattentiontotheir complaints,giventhe"lowefficiency"ofthecurrentpetitionsystem.Ontheother hand,thepetitionsystemremainsausefulvehicleforcommunicatingabusesof powerinthelowerechelonsofgovernment,andthestatecontinuestosupportthe xinfang bureaus.Protesters,therefore,continuetoemploycollectivepetitions,even inthefaceofrecentregulationsseekingtolimitthedisruptivepotentialofthese actions(O'Brien,pp.68­69). Whilestudiesofpoliticalopportunitystructuresoftenfocusonthefeasibility ofprotestgivencertainconditions,TeresaWrightshowsthattheconceptof politicalopportunitymaybeappliedtodifferentquestions.Inherarticle"Student MovementsinChinaandTaiwan,"Wrightassessesthesalienceofpolitical opportunitystructuresintermsoftheirinfluenceontheformandtacticsof protestmovements,inthiscasetheinfluenceofstatestructuresandpolitical cultureonstudentorganizationandmobilizationstrategies.Adoptinga comparativeapproach,Wrightidentifies"elementsofopportunity"relevantto studentmovementsinChinain1989andTaiwanin1990:thesingle-partystate, officialcontroloverthedisseminationofinformationandtheformationofsocial organizations,andthetendencytorepressdissentviolently(O'Brien,p.27).She arguesthatthefearanddistrustgeneratedbythesestructureshamperedeffective organizationwithinstudentgroupsandlimited"cross-sector"mobilization (O'Brien,p.28).Alackoftrustcontributedtofactionalismandradicalism;afear ofrepressionledstudentstolimittheirmembershipandadditionallyservedto Reviews 103 validatetheradicalpositionsadoptedbyselectgroups(O'Brien,pp.46,51).Wright emphasizesthatthesecorrelationsarenotstaticprescriptions(O'Brien,p.37). Rather,studenttacticsadaptedtochangingcircumstances.IfthecaseofChinain 1989demonstratedtherelationshipbetweenincreasingrepressionandincreasing radicalization,thecaseofTaiwanin1990presentedanalternateoutcomewhere conciliationonthepartofthestateengenderedatrendtowardmoderationamong thestudentsaswell.Thisdifferencenotwithstanding,studentsinbothChinaand Taiwanpursued"narrowmobilizationstrategies"inthefaceofstatecontrols (O'Brien,p.52).InWright'swords,"this[finding]suggeststhatprotestersin illiberalcontextsfaceaconundrum:narrowmobilizationthatistheultimate outcomeofstaterepressionmaybeinsufficienttopropelrealchange,yet mobilizationthatincludesgroupswhichtheregimefindsthreateningislikelyto provokerepression"(O'Brien,p.53).

Journal

China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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