Enemies of the State: Mass Incidents and Subversion in China

40 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 7 Sep 2009

Date Written: 2009


According to press reports, the Chinese Communist Party faces a rising tide of resistance and subversion. Since 1993 the number of protests, demonstrations, strikes, and riots – or what the Chinese Ministry of Public Security calls “mass incidents” – has reportedly jumped nearly fifteen fold, hitting upwards of 127,000 a year in 2008 – the equivalent of 348 a day. Since the early 1990s, the government has arrested an average of 580 individual for counterrevolutionary crimes or endangering state security. In 2008, following rioting in Lhasa and unrest in Tibetan regions the number of such arrests reportedly rose to 1,600 and it seems safe to assume that in the wake of the July 2009 Urumqi riot that the number for 2009 will not be less than in 2007. In this paper, I use two datasets to analyze the rising tide of mass incidents, the nature of subversion, and the connection between mass incidents and organized subversion. The data show that mass incidents are generally rooted in work-related grievances and seek address of immediate demands rather than seeking broad political changes. The data also suggest that most “subversive” groups are either traditional sectarian groups or religious sects and that many of these are not necessarily engaged in subversion – defined herein as political activity designed to bring about the violent overthrow of a regime – or sedition – defined herein as political activity designed to discredit and undermine governmental authority. Finally, the data suggest that the rising tide of mass unrest remains disorganized and largely unconnected to organized subversion.

Suggested Citation

Wedeman, Andrew, Enemies of the State: Mass Incidents and Subversion in China (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451828

Andrew Wedeman (Contact Author)

Georgia State University ( email )

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