Kevin J. O'Brien
University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science
July 1, 2009
Journal of Democracy, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 25-28, July 2009
There has been more protest in the Chinese countryside than might have been expected in the repressive months following June 4, 1989. This unrest has been triggered in part by that staple of contentious politics research: opportunity. Leadership has also played a role. How they are perceived by their followers and interested onlookers is critical for protest organizers. Social recognition can steel an activist's resolve and lead to more protest. Violence has also been on the rise of late, as have unplanned, accidental protests that rapidly take on a life of their own. But is rural China likely to explode? Not likely. Organization remains low and cross-class cooperation is still rare. Claims tend to be circumscribed and popular action is usually small-scale and local. That national leaders tolerate so much contention is actually an indicator of their confidence. Should the Center begin to treat farmers' grievances like those of Tibetans and Falun Gong supporters, then we will know that the leadership is shaken and the regime is weakening.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 5
Keywords: China, protest, opportunity, leadership, violence, contention, political change, rural
JEL Classification: K42, O53, P20, P30
Date posted: February 17, 2009 ; Last revised: July 13, 2009
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