Journal of Democracy, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 25-28, July 2009
5 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2009 Last revised: 13 Jul 2009
Date Written: July 1, 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.
Keywords: China, protest, opportunity, leadership, violence, contention, political change, rural
JEL Classification: K42, O53, P20, P30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation