Mobilizing without solidarity : sustained activism among Chinese veterans

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Existing studies have portrayed a lack of broad-based solidarity as a major hurdle to sustained social mobilization. Examining Chinese veterans, this article contends that intragroup fragmentation within a social group can actually help sustain activism when in contention with authorities. This is achieved through a mechanism of “selective identification”: when subgroups make demands, they identify with better-off counterparts, while distancing themselves from veterans who are more disadvantaged. Through this, each successful gain achieved by one subgroup generates and legitimizes claims by other subgroups. Thus, intragroup divisions have not disempowered claimants but have been used as leverage against the government when making demands. This mechanism poses a dilemma for the government: a unified policy response to veteran groups agitating for better conditions is not accepted by groups that believe they deserve more, whereas a differentiated policy creates grievances among those who receive less. Both types of grievances can help mobilize and sustain collective action, even though vet-erans’ activism has declined in recent years because of a more repressive overall environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalChina Journal
Issue number1
Early online date3 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

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