Preventing Protest One Person at a Time: Psychological Coercion and Relational Repression in China
China Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 179-201, June 2017
28 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2017
Date Written: June 1, 2017
Using riot police to break up a big demonstration is a familiar occurrence in many parts of the world, including China. But all protest control does not involve the use of force, nor is repression always directed at large groups of people assembled in one location. Some repression rests on psychological rather than physical coercion and is aimed at individuals, often in their homes or nearby. This type of repression may be carried out by people with only a loose connection to the state's coercive apparatus, such as relatives, friends, or neighbors of the target who work for the government or receive benefits from it. "Relational repression" is labor intensive and a sign of a high-capacity state that uses multiple levers to suppress contention, but has limited reach and remains insecure about its ability to maintain social stability. It builds on Maoist and dynastic techniques of control and aims to extend state penetration into a marketized society whose members have increasingly emancipated themselves from direct dependence on the government. Relational repression often alienates both the agents of repression and their targets. But it can, at times, be effective in demobilizing resistance or preventing a person from taking part in protest.
Keywords: Protest, Repression, Policing, Contention, Coercion, China
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