Mobile Activism and Contentious Politics in Contemporary China

35 Pages Posted: 1 May 2013 Last revised: 13 Jun 2013

See all articles by Jun Liu

Jun Liu

Lund University - Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies

Date Written: April 30, 2013

Abstract

The past decade has seen an increasingly use of the mobile phone as a facilitator for protests in liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes. Yet, to date how the use of mobile phones affects participation in protests remains largely unclear and under-theorized. To fill this gap, this study employs the distinction between communication and metacommunication to investigate the informational and relational dimensions of the mobile phone in protest mobilization in four cases in rural and urban China. By drawing upon 53 in-depth interviews, the result reveals that, in addition to communicating mobilizing information, participators metacommunicate their mutual relationships via mobile phones in mobilization process, which greatly shape both the practice of information exchange and the perception and interpretation of information. Such kind of metacommunication acts as the pivotal driving force for mobilization and participation in protests as it involves an engagement of reciprocal relationship, generates a sense of mutual engagement, and enhances a feeling of solidarity. This study concludes that the dynamic of the mobile phone as a facilitator in popular protest lies in its embedding of metacommunication beyond information dissemination.

Keywords: mobile phone, protest, metacommunication, mobilization, China, participation, information, relationship, interpersonal network

Suggested Citation

Liu, Jun, Mobile Activism and Contentious Politics in Contemporary China (April 30, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2258519 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2258519

Jun Liu (Contact Author)

Lund University - Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies ( email )

Sweden

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