Popular Contention and its Impact in Rural China

Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 235-259, April 2005

25 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2008

See all articles by Kevin J. O'Brien

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science

Abstract

Protest outcomes in rural China are typically an outgrowth of interaction between activists, sympathetic elites, targets and the wider public. Popular agitation first alerts concerned officials to poor policy implementation and may prompt them to take corrective steps. As a result of participating in contention certain activists feel empowered and become more likely to take part in future challenges, while others feel disillusioned and lapse into passivity. In the course of observing collective action, some onlookers are sensitized to protester's concerns and public opinion is affected. Without popular action, better implementation, biographical change, and effects on the public would not emerge, but nor would they without involvement from above. Studying the impact of protest in rural China thus sheds light on two issues that have long troubled students of contentious politics: 1) how to get a grip on indirect, mediated consequences, and 2) how to think about causality when change is a result both of popular action and openings provided by sympathetic elites.

Keywords: China, protest, outcomes, contention, rural

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Kevin J. and Li, Lianjiang, Popular Contention and its Impact in Rural China. Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 235-259, April 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1097317

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science ( email )

Hong Kong

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